Bhupesh Baghel, the president of the Chhattisgarh unit of the Congress, will be the next chief minister of the state, the party announced on Sunday. He will take oath in Raipur at 5 pm on Monday, observer Mallikarjun Kharge said after a Congress Legislature Party meeting.
The announcement followed days of speculations and meetings between Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the front-runners for the post at his residence in New Delhi ever since election results were declared on Tuesday. Gandhi held similar meetings for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh as well. Newly-elected Congress MLAs of the three states had met to choose their chief ministers on Wednesday but decided to leave the choice to Gandhi.
Congress Lok Sabha MP Tamradhwaj Sahu and senior party leader TS Singh Deo were among the other front-runners for the post. Sahu is the party’s only Lok Sabha MP from the state. Deo, who was the leader of the Opposition in the outgoing state Assembly, won from the Ambikapur constituency.
Baghel, who has led the party in the state for five years, had credited Gandhi for the victory, reported the Hindustan Times. He had won from the Patan constituency with a margin of 27,477 votes.
The party wrote on Twitter that Baghel would form a “government of equality, transparency and integrity, starting off with loan waiver for farmers as we promised”.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times too, Baghel said that his government’s first priority would be to waive farmers’ loans, and to procure paddy on a higher minimum support price. He said his party would be able to deliver on these promises within 10 days. “If any financial hurdle comes we will deal it and the promises will be fulfilled,” he said.
After the announcement of his name, Baghel went to meet Governor Anandiben Patel. He later told reporters that the decision on his deputy and cabinet ministers will be taken after he takes oath. On the problem of Maoist violence in the state, he said, according to ANI: “Nobody can solve it instantly. They [Maoists] have a very strong hold. We will be successful in eliminating them if firm steps are taken with the support of the people in the Naxal-affected areas.”
Baghel had become the president of the Chhattisgarh Congress after almost the entire senior leadership of the party in the state was killed in a Maoist attack in 2013.
In the recently-held Assembly elections, the Congress had swept Chhattisgarh, winning 68 out of 90 seats to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had been in power in the state for 15 years. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the party emerged the single-largest party, falling two seats short of a majority in both. It will form the government in the two states with support from other parties.