Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel wants to wage a war against malnutrition in Chhattisgarh. He says the progress of a state is measured not just in GDP and infrastructure, but the physical and mental well-being of its residents too. Baghel had launched the Suposhan Abhiyan on October 2, on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. “The Congress party believes and practises the principle of progress for the last man in the row. This [Suposhan Abhiyan] is a true tribute to Gandhi,” he said. After the formation of Chhattisgarh in 2000, many people scripted dreams of a naya Chhattisgarh, but in the last fifteen years, the journey towards accomplishing this dream was rather slow or divergent, he said. Bhupesh Baghel was the architect behind the 2018 assembly polls success, steering the party through all turmoil. Baghel spoke to THE WEEK. Edited excerpts from the conversation:
Congress won the by poll in Dantewada, a seat held by BJP in Bastar. What message does this victory hold for the Congress?
The victory of the Congress in the Dantewada bypoll is an endorsement of the policies of the government. We had lost this seat to BJP in the assembly elections, but in nine months the party could wrest the seat from BJP—with such huge margin. This is an indication that the public stands with the Congress party and its pro-people policies. Our government raised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for paddy to Rs 2,500 per quintal from Rs 1,750, the agricultural loans of the farmers were waived, MSP for tendupatta was hiked, and Suposhan, Haat Bazaar Clinic and such schemes had an impact on the lives of the public. 1,764 hectares of land, acquired for setting up an integrated steel plant in Lohandiguda area of Bastar district, was returned to the farmers after the project failed to materialise.
The BJP has accused the Congress of misuse of government machinery in the election. What do you say?
Any party, especially if they are in the opposition, will come up with such lame excuses to save face. In the Dantewada bypoll, 58 companies of the central paramilitary forces were deployed. How can you expect misuse of machinery when such large-scale deployment has happened?