Baghel’s political ascendancy in Chhattisgarh raises party tensions


In the Rajiv Gandhi era, Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Digvijaya have had the opportunity to serve as union ministers, state party chiefs and parliamentarians when Bhupesh Baghel, a district youth Congress leader from Durg used to raise “Kamal Nath Zindabad, Digvijaya Singh zindabad.”
However, nearly four decades later, the 63 year old is far more comfortably placed than these party stalwarts. In fact , going by various survey reports and pollsters predictions, Baghel is set to return as chief minister of Chhattisgarh. Going by these pre-polls opinion poll surveys, they predict a bleak future for Gehlot while Nath’s fate hangs in balance.
Bhupesh Baghel was a Digvijaya Singh find way back in 1983 when young Baghel was thinking of becoming a full time socialist, raising the bogey of Anti-English stir and becoming a leading light of Manva Kurmi Chhatriya Samaj that represents the Kurmi community having large representation in areas that are now part of Chhattisgarh.
As child, Baghel reportedly lacked interest in studies. However,his father Nand Kumar Baghel, a Lohiyaite socialist, was far from getting jittery. Nand Kumar trusted his son so much so that he used to say that even if his son gives up studies, he won’t go back to his promise to shine in public life.
This was the time young Bhupesh was pursuing B.Sc, in what was then undivided MP, when he began losing interest in studies. His father Nand Kumar Baghel made his son an offer — he could quit studies in exchange for the promise that he would become the chief minister of the state one day. Baghel Jr. did not hesitate even for a second and took up the challenge.
The scientific world’s loss was the political sphere’s gain, more precisely the Congress’ gain.From focusing on ‘padyatras’ for building a mass connect to reviving the morale of party workers, Bhupesh Baghel has been credited for reversing the fortunes of Congress in Chhattisgarh in 2018 and then consolidating the support base from 2018 to 2023. Many say that his street-fighter spirit had helped the Congress beat the BJP in 2018. five years later, Like Nath, Baghel is unapologitical Hindu, using many religious symbols and schemes to consolidate his hold in the tribal state.
Baghel’s campaign against the BJP is hard and direct. Speaking to this correspondent over phone, Baghel justified his offer to write off farmers loan. “I have been accused of writing off farm loan worth 9000 crores. But what about Narendra Modi government writing off 14 lakh crores of some business houses. Would the BJP go to people and seek a mandate on writing off debts of the rich?” he said stoutly defending loan waiver plank.
Baghel claims his government has spent over 1,00,000 crores in welfare schemes. “ Our spending on welfare schemes helped us tide over economic crisis and slowdown during Covid 19. there was so much money in circulation and the poor were able to survive”, he said.
As Chhattisgarh chief minister, Baghel has found the perfect manure for growth. The Congress government in Chhattisgarh has successfully incorporated a ‘cow based economy’ to counter rival BJP’s proficiency in mixing religious symbols with politics. Baghel’s scheme to buy cow dung from farmers is now part of the Congress manifesto in Madhya Pradesh with Kamal Nath promising to introduce a similar scheme in Madhya Pradesh. Bhupesh Baghel now wishes to increase procurement price from rupees two to four per kg. This scheme has not upstaged rival BJP but also earned praise from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological fulcrum.