The powerful OBC leader Bhupesh Baghel overcame all odds and outsmarted his competitors within the party on Sunday as he was chosen unanimously as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party in a jam-packed but emotionally charged-up meeting at party State headquarters here.
Congress observer Mallikarjun Kharge informed mediapersons that Baghel emerged as consensus candidate for the next Chief Minister of the mineral-rich State. The 58-year-old five-time legislator Baghel will take oath as the third Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh on Monday at 4.30 pm at Science College ground.
Kharge said names of Ministers would be declared later “after detailed discussions with all stake-holders”.
State Congress president Baghel faced a stiff challenge from TS Singhdeo, party’s lone Lok Sabha member from State, Tamradhwaj Sahu and former Union Minister Charandas Mahant.
Shortly after Baghel was elected the Congress Legislature Party leader, he announced to write off bank loan of farmers within 10 days, a prime poll campaign promise that led to the BJP’s rout in Assembly elections.
Baghel said the Congress Government will unravel the conspiracy that led to the killing of top Congress leaders by Maoists in the Jheeram Valley in Bastar in May 2013, including then State Congress chief Nandkumar Patel, the veteran VC Shukla and tribal leader Mahendra Karma. Baghel personally suspects ‘political hand’ in the killings.
In his first tweet as Chief Minister-elect, Baghel expressed his gratitude towards Congress president Rahul Gandhi and said Rahul had given him the responsibility of building “a new Chhattisgarh”.
“I can assure the great people of Chhattisgarh that the new Congress Government would live up to their expectations and wishes.”
The Congress said on Twitter, “We wish him the best as he forms a Government of equality, transparency and integrity starting off with farm loan waiver for farmers as we promised.” Baghel is Post-Graduate from Pt Ravishankar Shukla University Raipur and he was Revenue Minister in Ajit Jogi-led Congress Government in Chhattisgarh that was voted out in 2003.
Baghel has always been in the centre stage of the ousted BJP Government’s attacks and was recently jailed for a few days in Raipur after he was charge-sheeted by the CBI for his alleged role in the circulation of a sleaze CD against a powerful BJP Minister in Chhattisgarh.
He launched his political career in early 80s from Durg district under the guidance of the late Chandulal Chandrakar. He joined the Youth Congress in 1985 and was elected to the undivided Madhya Pradesh Assembly for the first time in 1993.
Hailing from a farmer’s family, Baghel is credited with leading the party from the front in the fight against the BJP and scripting the crushing defeat of the 15-year-old regime of Raman Singh.
The Congress won 68 of 90 seats. The BJP bagged just 15 seats.