Chhattisgarh CM sets off on state-wide yatra as his government battles perception, reality

Chhattisgarh CM sets off on state-wide yatra as his government battles perception, reality

India News

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is on the move these days. And it’s not just him. The CM is accompanied by the entire government machinery for a yatra – as yet unnamed – that is intended to reach out to people and send a political message, both to the MLAs and to the Congress’s voter base in the state.

On Tuesday, Baghel began a whirlwind tour of all the 90 Assembly constituencies, a yatra which he hopes to complete in the next four-five months.

With Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh a year and a half away, the timing of the yatra has been the subject of much speculation given that it’s unusual for the Congress to get off the blocks this early.

Over the last year, Baghel has emerged stronger, putting behind him the constant talk about rotational chief ministership which had dominated the state Congress’s politics for a while. With majority of the MLAs with him and considering that he has established a rapport with the Gandhis, Baghel is breathing easy for now.

However, sources said, the party is worried about internal surveys reportedly suggesting that the party and the government may be facing a perception issue and that word about the various welfare initiatives of the government may not have reached the target audience. Also, with the surveys showing that some of the MLAs may be up against anti-incumbency, Baghel has decided to take matters in his hand.

With Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh a year and a half away, the timing of the yatra has been the subject of much speculation. (Express photo)

Though the Congress claims that the BJP is in disarray, its strong organisational presence is a worry for the ruling party in the state. The AAP is also eying an entry into the state – its new Rajya Sabha MP, Sandeep Kumar Pathak, who played a key role in the party’s Punjab win, hails from Chhattisgarh.

The Indian Express accompanied the CM on Day 1 of the yatra as he visited three villages — Kusmi, Shankargarh and Bariyo — in Samri Assembly constituency of Balrampur-Ramanujganj district.

His first stop, after his chopper landed in Kusmi, was the local police station. The CM went straight to the Ram Janki Temple on the station premises and offered prayers before walking into the police station and interacting with local police officials, verifying the case registers, inquiring about the number of cases and taking a tour of the police station building, a fortified structure built in view of the Maoist threat.

The second stop was a school — one of the Swami Atmanand English-medium schools that the government is projecting as a key success. The CM interacted with teachers and students, fielded well-rehearsed questions from the students such as Baghel’s favourite subjects as a student, his fitness mantra, his advise to overcome exam anxiety and one on how he manages to “run the state so effectively”.

Baghel’s move to project the Swami Atmanand schools as a success story of the government is an attempt to counter the possible entry into the state of the AAP, which has been showcasing its education and health projects as its ‘Delhi model’.

The CM ended the visit in Kusmi with a chaupal, a public interaction session. (Express photo)

Hours later, the convoy made a stop at a PDS shop, where he interacted with beneficiaries and asked them if they were getting timely supplies. A woman, Sasikala, complained that her name had been deleted from the BPL list and that she had been running from pillar to post over the last couple of years to get it restored. After hearing her out, the CM, in full media glare, declared: “CMO kahan hain… nilambit kijiye… (Where is the CMO? Suspend him).” By evening, the CM had posted the suspension order on his Twitter account.

The CM ended the visit in Kusmi with a chaupal, a public interaction session, where a parent told him that the village school does not have enough teachers and that the building itself was spruced up only a couple of days ago.

“Feedback is important. I cannot get angry with complaints because this is what I have come to hear. Now I know some things were set right before my arrival. My officials are taking notes,” Baghel later told The Indian Express, adding, “But what is important is that any person can now directly talk to the CM. It gives them a sense of empowerment. The Government is at their doorstep.”

The chief secretary and the additional chief secretary, along with the local collector and the administration, accompanied the CM.

With unexpected rains and thunder showers playing spoilsport, the CM rushed to the next village, Shankargarh, after which he took a helicopter to Bariyo, the last village of the day. There were more visits – to hospitals, schools, mandis and the district headquarters office. At every chaupal, he made announcements, some impromptu and some planned. From an agricultural university to road-widening projects to grant of funds for construction of a mini-stadium, a cow shelter and a community hall.

At every stop, he inquired whether people were getting the benefits of government schemes, making it a point to name each scheme, including the Godhan Nyay Yojana. When some in the audience complained of the rise in the prices of fuel, cooking gas and kerosene, Baghel pointed out that it was the Central government that deals with fuel prices.

– This reporter travelled with the Chief Minister as a guest of the state government

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