With the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections a little over one year away, Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel has announced the creation of separate departments for the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for effective implementation of these communities’ welfare schemes. So far, this has been done in the state by a unified department.
“For the first time, we will have separate departments for the ST, SC and OBC communities. This shall help to ensure special focus on each department and better implementation of the policies meant for these communities,” Baghel said.
Announcing these decisions taken by his Cabinet Tuesday, CM Baghel said the government will also set up the Advisory Councils for SCs and OBCs on the lines of the existing Tribal Advisory Council in the state.
A Kurmi leader, Baghel has been vocal about his identity as an OBC leader and farmer’s son from Chhattisgarh. To take on the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, he has sought to project his image as a “son-of-the-soil” and devout Ram follower while building up a regional identity for the state in the form of a “Chhattisgarh model”.
CM Baghel celebrates local festivals and showcases his Hindu beliefs. His government has made the display of the Chhattisgarh Mahatari (mother in the Chhattisgarhi dialect)’s portrait mandatory in government offices and at all official events.
Baghel seemed to have learnt from the erstwhile Raman Singh-led BJP government’s alleged failings in connecting with the people on the ground. While many senior BJP ministers and leaders during the previous regime were seen as “outsiders”, Raman Singh himself was perceived to be distant from the masses he ruled.
In a bid to address the problem of its “disconnect” with common people, the BJP leadership recently put in place a new team in its Chhattisgarh unit, appointing OBC leaders, Arun Sao and Narayan Chandel, as the state party president and the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, respectively.
Baghel has also declared his government’s decision to hold a Chhattisgarhia Olympic in the state, which will not have any age limit for participants. Apart from traditional games such as bhaunra and gedi, the event will encompass modern sports including cricket, volleyball and hockey among others.
On the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s current visit to the state, the CM said, “It’s good that he is coming, he should also visit the Kaushalya temple that BJP couldn’t finish in 15 years. He should also see the Gothan where our cows are kept.”
Bhagwat will stay in Raipur for a week, holding meetings and workshops involving the Sangh members. His visit to the state is being seen as a sign of the RSS’s greater involvement in the state affairs ahead of the 2023 Assembly polls. Both Sao and Chandel are said to be close to the RSS.
Clearly, the BJP has started gearing up for the polls, looking to exploit the weaknesses of the Congress government. The Congress however claims it has managed to corner the saffron party. “We have taken away their usual issues from them. So they have nothing to campaign against and are just targeting individual leaders of our dispensation. The BJP has lost its direction in the state,“ claimed a Congress leader.