Rahul Gandhi will be our leader in future too: Chhattisgarh CM

Poornima Joshi Ranchi | Updated on December 08, 2019 Published on December 08, 2019

Campaigning in the Jharkhand Assembly polls, the Congress Chief Minister from the neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Singh Baghel, talked to BusinessLine about how land and economic development is the only issue and the BJP is only trying to divert attention with Hindutva issues. Bhagel is also a strong believer in Rahul Gandhi being the only leader capable of heading the Congress against the BJP. Excerpts:

How do you view the Congress alliance’s chances against the BJP in Jharkhand; do you think the developments in Maharashtra have any impact here?

People are disillusioned with the BJP. Their own allies are drifting away from them. This is true not just of Maharashtra but even Jharkhand where the AJSU is fighting against them. They are playing politics of power and people can see that; it was visible in the way they first imposed President’s Rule in Maharashtra and did not allow any other government formation. Then they suddenly swore in their own Chief Minister early one morning and no one knows whether the Cabinet meeting was called to revoke the President’s Rule.

The BJP is raising Ram temple and Article 370 in Jharkhand, do you believe Hindutva issues are working in Jharkhand?

BJP has been rejected by the people of Haryana and Maharashtra despite them misusing religion and nationalism for political ends. They cynically beat their drum on Article 370 and Haryana, which sends a large number of its young men into the Army, rejected them. In Jharkhand too, they are again raising Hindutva issues.

It is time to ask what the BJP has done to make a tangible, positive change in the life of an ordinary Hindu in the past six years. What is their vision for prosperity, development, peace, women’s empowerment? Look at the state of economy; does it help the normal Hindu? The Congress does not ask for votes but even when they claim we were performing at our worst, we were still better than them.

You see the BJP only talks about Hindu values but what they are actually doing is destroying the farmers in the name of cows. Stray cattle have become a menace for the farmers. Farmers keep vigil through the night in Uttar Pradesh to protect their crops. From as asset that cattle were to the farmer in the earlier, saner era of governance, now we have a situation wherein it has become a burden.

What we have done in Chhattisgarh is to make 2,000 cow shelters in villages. We have arranged for their fodder. So the crops are protected from stray cattle. We make vermi-compost from cow dung and selling it for ₹10 a kilogramme, women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) have made soap, face packs, diyas (earthen lamps) and flower pots out of cow dung. I gifted cow dung diyas to Manmohan Singhji and Soniaji (Congress President) on Diwali. In Delhi, people are suffering from stubble burning, and in Chhattisgarh, we have put machines in the fields to harvest rice stubble and we use it as fodder for the animals. I promise you, come to Chhattisgarh and see for yourself how cow shelters have turned into employment-generation centres for villages. But this has only become possible because unlike the BJP, we don’t believe in using cow for politics. The satirist Harishankar Parsai once said cow gives milk everywhere in the world. In India, it is milked for votes.

Why do you think the tribals are agitating in Jharkhand?

BJP has pushed tribals to the edge and appropriated their land to the extent that they have been forced to start movements such as Pathalgarhi. The Congress’s policy towards tribals has always been very different; we recognise their inherited right over land and passed laws such as Forest Rights Act, the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act that ensures self-governance through Gram Sabhas. The BJP is an anti-tribal party.

If people are disillusioned with the BJP as you are claiming, what has the Congress done to present an alternative? You have no national leader to challenge Narendra Modi, and Rahul Gandhi has walked away to a meditation camp …

It is not I who am claiming this. From their boast of Congress-mukt Bharat, look at the map of India now — they have been ousted from Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and soon, they will be out of Jharkhand, Bihar and UP too. We have a national leadership with credibility. The Gandhi family has faced challenges to their leadership from Indiraji’s time when the Syndicate challenged her.

Then Pranab Mukherjee challenged Rajiv Gandhi and Soniaji was also challenged by big leaders such as Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar, PA Sangma who split the party. But Rahul Gandhi has not faced such a challenge despite our politics was rejected in favour of pseudo-nationalism. Even in the future, Rahul Gandhi will be our leader. He has dared to take responsibility for the Congress’s defeat and resigned. It is my personal belief that Rahul Gandhi alone can provide leadership to the Congress.

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Published on December 08, 2019
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