Cong's Baghel in tough tri-poll battle in Chhattisgarh

Cong's Baghel in tough tri-poll battle in Chhattisgarh

Bhupesh Baghel

Bhupesh Baghel, who is in the fray seeking a fifth term in the Chhattisgarh Assembly, is an influential OBC leader and the Congress' strongman in the mineral-rich state, which is plagued by the left-wing extremism.

He is president of the Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (CPCC) and logged into a triangular battle of ballots from the Patan constituency where caste equations are the dominating factor.

The Patan constituency in the Durg district of Chhattisgarh is dominated by the Kurmis and the Sahus — two dominant communities among the OBCs (other backward classes) in the state.

Baghel, who belongs to the Kurmi community, has been contesting from this Assembly seat since 1993 and has lost only once to his nephew and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Vijay Baghel in the 2008 Assembly polls.

In 2013 elections, however, he reclaimed the seat defeating his nephew, who contested on a BJP ticket, by a significant margin of votes.

Baghel, who is one of the front-runners for the post of chief minister if the Congress manages to wrest power from the ruling BJP, is hoping to win the seat once again but the fight has gone tough this time with the entry of his political rival and former Congress leader Ajit Jogi in the poll arena.

While the BJP has fielded Motilal Sahu as its candidate from the seat against Baghel with an eye on Sahu votes, Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) has fielded Shakuntala Sahu to capture Satnami community votes, making the contest triangular.

A total of nine candidates are in the fray from the Patan constituency.

Baghel, a four-term MLA since 1993, started his political career under the guidance of his political guru late Chandulal Chandrakar in the early 80s. He joined the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) in 1985 and served as the vice president of the Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress in 1994–95.

He was first elected to the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly consecutively in 1993 and subsequently in 1998 from Patan. After the creation of Chhattisgarh through bifurcation of the Madhya Pradesh, he became a member of the Chhatisgarh legislative Assembly.

Baghel, who is a sitting MLA in Chhattisgarh, won from the Patan constituency in 2003 and 2013. He contested Lok Sabha elections in 2004 and 2009 from Durg and Raipur parliamentary seats respectively. But, he lost in both of the elections.

He was appointed as a minister in the Digvijay Singh’s cabinet in the undivided Madhya Pradesh and later promoted as the minister of transport in December 1999.

Baghel, who was the first minister for revenue, public health engineering and relief work in the newly created state of Chhattisgarh, was the Deputy Leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly from 2003 to 2008 after the BJP came to power defeated the Congress in Assembly polls.

Baghel has been making headlines for last one year since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked him in connection with a case of circulation of a “fake” sleaze CD that purportedly showed a senior minister in the Raman Singh's government Rajesh Munat in a compromising position in October 2017.

He was recently remanded to 14 days judicial custody by a CBI court in Raipur after the investigating agency filed a charge-sheet against him and other accused in the case.