New Delhi: The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress on Sunday named the party’s Chhattisgarh unit head Bhupesh Baghel as the next chief minister of the state. With this, the Congress has completed the process of selecting chief ministers for all three states it won last week, including Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The oath-taking ceremony in three states will take place on Monday.
Interestingly, Sunday also marked Gandhi’s first anniversary as Congress president. The recent victories in the three north Indian states were a major boost for the party’s prospects as it prepares for the 2019 general elections.
Gandhi tweeted on Sunday evening on the occasion and said he was reiterating his “commitment to building a strong, united and vibrant Congress party".
On Thursday, Gandhi had chosen Kamal Nath to head the government in Madhya Pradesh, while the decision over Ashok Gehlot as the chief minister and Sachin Pilot as his deputy in Rajasthan was announced on Friday. The party did not rule out the possibility of having a deputy chief minister in Chhattisgarh, too.
Baghel, 57, has been at the helm of party affairs in the state for the last four years. He will take over as the second chief minister from the Congress ever since the state was formed in 2000. According to Mallikarjun Kharge, senior Congress leader and party observer of the state, Baghel will take oath on Monday evening.
“Celebrations are in order in Chhattisgarh as Bhupesh Baghel is appointed CM. We wish him the best as he forms a government of equality, transparency and integrity, starting off with farm loan waivers for farmers as we promised," Congress’ official Twitter handle read on Sunday afternoon.
The choice of Baghel comes after a series of meetings of state party functionaries over the weekend, and with Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Saturday. While Baghel was the front runner, senior party leaders Tamradwaj Sahu, T.S. Singh Deo and Charan Das Mahant were also in the fray. On Sunday, the Congress legislative party held a meeting in Raipur before the announcement was made.
Beginning his political career as a youth Congress leader, Baghel has risen up the ranks. He has served as a minister in the first cabinet of Chhattisgarh under former Congress leader Ajit Jogi and also in the Digvijay Singh-led cabinet in united MP in 1998.
“In the first cabinet meeting, the loan waiver will be announced and an SIT (special investigating team) will be constituted to probe the Jeeram Valley incident," Baghel told reporters in Raipur after the announcement. “Our focus will be on the welfare of farmers, tribals, youth, women and small traders," he added.
Rahul will attend all three oath-taking functions beginning with Rajasthan in the morning, Madhya Pradesh in the afternoon and Chhattisgarh in the evening. The Congress is hopeful of making the swearing-in ceremony of its new CMs as a show of strength, especially in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where several opposition leaders, including Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, have been invited.