Defining Moment For 2024: Baghel’s ‘Bharosa’ Vs Modi’s Guarantees In Chhattisgarh

Defining Moment For 2024: Baghel’s ‘Bharosa’ Vs Modi’s Guarantees In Chhattisgarh

Neelu VyasUpdated: Tuesday, November 07, 2023, 12:10 PM IST
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Defining Moment For 2024: Baghel’s ‘Bharosa’ Vs Modi’s Guarantees In Chhattisgarh |

After the high-stake battle of Karnataka,the first Hindi heartland state of Chhattisgarh goes to polls on Tuesday in its first phase with 20 assembly constituencies up for grabs, mostly in the southern and western tribal areas of the state, some of them Naxal-infested.

Chhattisgarh is a must-win for the Congress, which bounced back to power in 2018 after 13 years in the wilderness; hence it’s not only a battle of prestige, but a contest which, if lost, might bring to an abrupt halt the victory chariot of the grand old party; especially, after the rich pickings in Himachal and Karnataka.

Given the petty state of its coffers, the grand old party badly needs to wrest this coal and iron ore rich state, which will ultimately fund the 2024 General Election.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is the main architect of the Chhattisgarh model of Hindutva which is essentially a mix of secularism, cow and Ram intertwined with intense Chhattisgarhiya pride; but it is not just rhetoric: also on the board are welfare schemes catering to 65 per cent of the farmers, thus giving a massive push to the rural economy.

‘Bhupesh hai to bharosa hai’, ‘abki bar Congress sarkar’ —— these were the taglines churned out by the Congress camp, hoping to bounce back with a full majority. Baghel, in a way, has offered a political template to the opposition parties, which carries the masthead, ‘How to beatthe BJP at its own games’. Even BJP workers on the ground shared with this correspondent off the record the revelation that they, too, have been the beneficiaries of Baghel’s Gothan or the Godhan Nyay scheme.

In contrast with Baghel’s high-voltage eclectic campaign, BJP appeared rudderless, issueless and faceless. It was only in the last three months, after the social media team from Delhi took over the campaign, that the saffron party began harping on corruption and nepotism in the state government. BJP still looked a late entrant and in a desperate move its tallest leader and former chief minister, Dr Raman Singh, was para-dropped into the campaign at the last moment; and all this after he had been sidelined by the central leadership.

When this correspondent spoke to Raman Singh, he himself was not sure if he would become the chief Minister if BJP wins the election.

Heart to heart, BJP leaders admit that corruption allegations against Baghel government might not stand scrutiny in the people's court. But strapped for issues, the BJP grabbed the Mahadev App loot – an issue that was delivered on the platter by the ED. PM Modi even went to the extent of saying at a rally, 'Inho ne to Mahadev ko bhi nahi chodha ' (They have not spared Lord Shiva either). PM Modi, too, offered multiple guarantees of all kinds, but bereft of a poll narrative he had to announce the extension of the free ration scheme for next five years.

But in a state where Baghel's cutouts at least are bigger than that of Modi, will the people vote for the BJP is a million dollar question. The BJP’s campaign rests on claims of corruption, with Union Home Minster Amit Shah dubbing Chhattisgarh as the “ATM” of the Congress.

So, if BJP loses Chhattisgarh, it could lose the much required momentum to kick off its campaign for 2024 Hindi heartland states. It is like the World Cup semis before the final. It's a match clearly between PM Modi and ‘Kakka’ as Baghel is popularly known as. With the Modi brand seemingly not working during state elections, Baghel looks confident of forming the government. But will it be a comfortable majority for the Congress, so that it can deflect Operation Lotus and make Chhattisgarh impervious to the alleged grand designs of the BJP. Third December is the judgement day, all eyes on that. Till then it's Chhatisgarhiya bahut badhiya!

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