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Congress triumph, naxal attacks dominated 2018 in Chhattisgarh

Poll promises of loan waiver and Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 2,500 per quintal for paddy to farmers seems to have done the trick for the Congress in the state where BJP faced a strong anti-incumbency factor.

By: PTI | Raipur |
December 21, 2018 6:38:55 pm
Congress triumph, naxal attacks dominated 2018 in Chhattisgarh The triumph of the Congress in the hard-fought assembly poll battle became the year’s big news in the state (File/Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

In Chhattisgarh, 2018 undoubtedly was the year of the Congress, which ended three-time chief minister Raman Singh’s reign with a decisive mandate.

The triumph of the Congress in the hard-fought assembly poll battle became the year’s big news in the state, which also saw three deadly naxals attacks in Bastar division just ahead of elections. The Patthalgadi movement of tribals attracted national attention in 2018.

Congress wrested power from the BJP in a decisive mandate, after a hectic poll campaign by party president Rahul
Gandhi. After facing political exile for 15 year in the state, Congress got its highest seat tally ever, 68 in the 90-member Assembly. The BJP bagged 15 seats.

Poll promises of loan waiver and Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 2,500 per quintal for paddy to farmers seems to have done the trick for the Congress in the state where BJP faced a strong anti-incumbency factor.

Five-time MLA Bhupesh Baghel, who led the fight against the BJP government in last five years as the state
Congress chief, became the new chief minister in December. Hours after taking charge, he announced waiver of
short-term agricultural loans of farmers and raising the MSP for paddy to Rs 2,500 per quintal, fulfilling poll promises.

This time, the coalition between Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata
Congress Chhattisgarh (J) made the poll battle interesting. While Jogis party won five seats, its ally BSP finished with
two.

In September, Baghel was named as an accused in the charge sheet filed by the CBI in connection with last year’s
sex CD scandal allegedly featuring a minister of the previous BJP government. Baghel was the target of BJP chief Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, then chief minister Raman Singh and other BJP leaders during the election campaign over the CD row.

In October 2017, a ‘porn video’ allegedly involving then Public Works Department minister Rajesh Munat surfaced
after the arrest of a senior journalist Vinod Verma, a close confidant of Baghel, by Raipur police.
In April this year, the state was in the news with controversial Patthalgadi movement launched by tribals in
northern part of the state, particularly in Jashpur district.

Tribals put up plaques outside the village declaring the gram sabha as the only ‘sovereign authority’ under
provisions of the Panchayats (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

They also added messages saying laws enacted by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are not applicable in the scheduled
areas, where they gram sabha is supreme. Eight persons, including a former IAS officer, were arrested in connection with the movement.

There were three major naxal attacks ahead of the first phase of polls held on November 12, in which 13 people,
including eight security personnel, and a cameraman of national broadcaster Doordarshan, were killed.
Despite naxals’ call to boycott polls, the first phase of elections in 18 constituencies of eight Maoist-hit
districts recorded a voter turnout of 76.28 per cent. The overall voter turnout in the two-phase poll was 76.60 per
cent.

According to police, naxal influence declined in the state this year compared to 2017. So far this year, over 120
naxals were killed in separate encounters with security forces in the state. The figure was 77 last year, a police official
said.

In August, police killed 15 naxals in an encounter in Sukma district. Altogether 52 security personnel were killed
in naxal attacks so far this year. The number was 61 last year. In March this year, naxals carried out a major attack
killing nine Central Reserve Police Force personnel after blowing up a mine protected vehicle in Sukma.

In October, 14 employees of Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) were charred to death and several others injured following a
huge explosion in a gas pipeline in a coke oven section of the plant in Durg district.

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