On Sunday, the Congress party appointed Bhupesh Baghel as the next Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. Moreover, there were four strong contenders for the top post in the state. The contenders include Bhupesh Baghel, TS Singh Deo, Tamradhwaj Sahu, and Charan Das Mahant. The suspension over CM’s face got over after four days of the party coming to power in the state with a landslide victory. With the anointment of Bhupesh Baghel, the impasse over the choice of the CM came to an end.
The announcement was made at a meeting of MLAs in the state capital- Raipur- attended by the Congress observer for the state, Mallikarjun Kharge, and in-charge PL Punia. Earlier, on Saturday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi held deliberations with all the four CM aspirants at his Tughlaq Lane residence in Delhi.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister designate Bhupesh Baghel with Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and PL Punia in Raipur pic.twitter.com/Des7A6fhFZ
— ANI (@ANI) December 16, 2018
Kharge said, “It was a tough decision because all the four leaders worked equally for the party and they all are equal.”
The Congress found it extremely tough to select the CM of Chhattisgarh as there were four contenders for the post, and supporters of all the four aspirants wanted to see their leader as the next CM of the state. The supporters of CM contenders launched protests in the support of their respective leaders. On 15th December, according to a report in Patrika, around 25 newly elected MLAs of the Congress party were not satisfied with the apparent choice of Chief Minister in Chhattisgarh. All the 25 lawmakers of the Congress had threatened to quit the party and support Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh Party (JCC) in case the party declares Tamradhwaj Sahu as the next CM of the state. These 25 newly elected MLAs had conducted a secret meeting in a famous farmhouse near the airport in which they opposed Tamradhwaj Sahu’s candidature as the next CM of the state.
Also, the supporters of the Congress state President Bhupesh Baghel had launched a protest after the news of Tamradhwai Sahu being anointed as the next CM surfaced. The protestors raised slogans in support of Bhupesh Baghel and demanded his name for the post of CM, and finally, Congress accepted their demand. Baghel is an influential Congress leader in the state. He comes from the Kurmi (OBC) community, which accounts for around 14 per cent of Chhattisgarh population of around 2.5 crores, and comprises 40% voters of the state.
The supporters of TS Singh Deo also enthusiastically supported his candidature for the post of CM. On Saturday, Samri MLA Chintamani Maharaj told PTI, “I want TS Singh Deo to become chief minister and we have expressed our feelings to Kharge ji. However, we will abide by any decision that the party high command takes.” He further added that over 40 of the 68 newly-elected legislators want to see Deo as CM.
The supporters have their own reasons to support the candidature of their much-revered leaders for the post of CM. In July 2013, the top leadership of the Congress party in Chhattisgarh was attacked and killed by the Naxals in an ambush. The party lost many of its stalwart leaders including state president Nandkumar Patel, leader of opposition Mahendra Karma, Vidayacharan Shukla, and MLA Uday Mudaliyar.
The brutal killing of top Congress leaders in the state created a leadership vacuum within the party. In order to fill this vacuum, the party started promoting backward caste leader Bhupesh Baghel who had been a minister in the Digvijay Singh cabinet in the undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1999. He worked really hard to revive the party in the state and finally his hard work today seems to have paid off. However, people disliked his style of leadership. The leaders of faction-ridden state unit refused to accept Bhupesh Baghel as their leader because of his haughty attitude. Few months before the Chhattisgarh state assembly elections, his name surfaced in circulating a fake sex-tape of BJP minister Rajesh Munat. Baghel is also facing allegations of corruption.
However, leader of opposition and scion of Sarguja royal family, T.S. Singh Deo has been an acceptable face within the Congress and outside the Congress because of his amicable behaviour. This suave leader also had to face many controversies. Congress leaders accused him of going soft on Chief Minister Raman Singh. He faced criticism for having links with controversial corporates. However, he enjoys good rapport among tribals. He has been a bureaucrat as well. TS Singh Deo along with Bhupesh Baghel helped the Congress to sustain the menace created by Ajit Jogi within the Congress.
Two other contenders who were vying for the CM post- Charandas Mahant and Tamradhwaj Sahu- are important OBC leaders among the top leadership of Chhattisgarh Congress. Mahant served as a minister in the Digvijay Singh cabinet from 1993 to 1998. He also served as a minister of state in the Manmohan Singh government. He was also appointed as President of Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee in 2008, but the party failed to win the elections under his leadership. On the other hand, Tamradhwaj Sahu is considered as an influential leader of the backward Sahu community and is very close to Congress President Rahul Gandhi. It is important to note that supporters of Baghel launched protests after the news of Tamradhwai Sahu being anointed as the next CM surfaced. It seems that because of the massive protest and threat to leave Congress and join Ajit Jogi’s party, Sahu’s appointment as CM could not become a possibility.
Among the four contenders, T.S. Singh Deo and Baghel enjoy massive ground support and goodwill among the people of Chhattisgarh. After Baghel was declared CM of the state, some supporters of Deo registered their protests on the social media.
— Aditya Agarwal (@aaadiagr) December 16, 2018
Congree won in Chhattisgarh because of T.S. Singh Deo and credit goes to someone else. That's totally unfair. If you think that T.S baba should be the cm then trend #mycmtsbaba so that @RahulGandhi should know what the people of chhattisgarh want?
— Aayushi Sinha (@AayushiSinha8) December 16, 2018
We unitedly the people of Sarguja are not satisfied with the decision of Mr. Rahul Gandhi. We wanted to see our Sarguja Maharaj as the new CM of Chhattisgarh ?
— Ritu (@Ritu38018830) December 16, 2018
Well played Congress dynast. From leader of opposition @TS_SinghDeo to sidelining him in #Chattisgarh by #BhupeshBaghel Again a hard worker and clean image person sidelined for #robot . @OpIndia_com . Even he made congress presence across state.
— mritunjoy singh (@mritunjoy_singh) December 16, 2018
— Prathmesh Agrawal (@prathmesh_1712) December 16, 2018
Also, there were reports that Sahu was upset over being sidelined in the CM race. A report in Deccan Herald states that Baghel avoided making any comment on whether the MLAs favoured him as the CM candidate. Baghel stated that opinions expressed by his MLAs are ‘confidential’ and hence can’t be revealed. Furthermore, TS Singh Deo downplayed reports about his name doing rounds for the CM’s post. He said that somebody might have proposed his name at the meeting. Riddled with factionalism, it would be interesting to see that whether Baghel would succeed in providing a stable government to Chhattisgarh or not.