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The scandal that failed to keep Chhattisgarh's Bhupesh Baghel down

bhupesh baghel
Baghel was responsible for Congress’ turnaround in Chhattisgarh after it lost its entire leadership in a Maoist attack in 2013.
NEW DELHI: Barely eight weeks before assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, the CBI filed a chargesheet against Congress state chief Bhupesh Baghel in a sex CD case.

Baghel refused to seek bail and walked into jail. “I am innocent. The government is implicating me after the black flag demonstration,” he said. He was referring to the Congress black-flag demonstration during PM Modi’s visit to Chhattisgarh on September 22. Baghel, who was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by a special CBI court, said he would start a “satyagraha” in prison.

This Sunday, Baghel was appointed the new chief minister of Chhattisgarh. The murky CD scandal that dogged him for a year failed to grind him down.

Last year in October, then Chhattisgarh PWD Minister Rajesh Munat filed a complaint against Baghel and senior journalist Vinod Verma for allegedly tarnishing his image through a "fake" sex CD. Munat, who was considered close to then chief minister Raman Singh, said the CD in question was fake and was an attempt to malign his image. In October last year, state police swooped down on journalist Verma's house in Ghaziabad and picked him up.

Subsequently, the Chhattisgarh government handed over the case to the CBI with then chief minister Raman Singh proclaiming publicly that it was necessary to bring an end to the political culture of using sex CDs for mud-slinging and maligning in the state. But, as CBI probe advanced, names of several people, including local businessmen—who were close to ruling BJP also cropped up. Baghel's refusal to engage a lawyer and seek bail but to go to jail generated popular sympathy for him.

Baghel was responsible for Congress’ turnaround in Chhattisgarh after it lost its entire leadership in a Maoist attack in 2013. Hailing from the influential Kurmi (Other Backward Class) community, which accounts for around 14 per cent of the state population of around 2.5 crore, Baghel, 57, is known for his political acumen with strong leadership qualities.

Baghel had been vocal against BJP-led government's chief minister, Raman Singh, his family members and other ministers, unlike the previous years when most of the senior Congress leaders were seen going soft on the government. The Economic Offences Wing of Chhattisgarh had registered a case against Baghel and his family members for alleged irregularities in a land-allotment case last year but that too failed to keep him down.

Under Baghel, the Congress in Chhattisgarh took to the streets through dharnas and taking up causes including, farm distress, vacant government posts and rejection of land rights to tribals. One of the biggest initiatives under Baghel was “Vikas Khojo” yatra which saw Congress looking for “development”.

Baghel became the chief minister by pipping to the post several strong candidiates such as Tamradhwaj Sahu, TS Singh Deo and Charan Das Mahant. The central leadership of the Congress was looking at caste mathematics ahead of 2019 elections. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had handpicked Tamardhwaj Sahu, party’s lone MP from Chhattisgarh, to fight an election from Durg (Rural). Through this decision, Gandhi had tried to win over Sahus, an influential sub-caste of OBCs which had solidly voted for BJP. However, Baghel got the maximum support of MLAs and other party colleagues.
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