Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel. Photo: BhupeshBaghelCG/Facebook
The chill in the spine every Congress or opposition chief minister now feels has travelled from Karnataka to Madhya Pradesh via Rajasthan and reached Chhattisgarh. In a belated decision that has been pending for 18 months, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has hurriedly decided to start distributing largesse to MLAs. Fifteen of them have been made parliamentary secretaries attached to the 12 ministers and the chief minister’s office.
These are ostensibly fruits of power, and though in size a parliamentary secretary’s a position comparable to a grape or peanut, it is a still a position which entitles the holder to sarkari comforts like a car and bungalow. It falls somewhere in between being just a plain MLA and a minister of state. Since a parliamentary secretary is attached to a minister, he has more opportunities to serve the public in ways he desires.
Baghel has been careful in selecting his team of sansadiya sachiv. All calculations of caste, community and region have been kept in mind. There are five from the OBCs, three from the general category, five from the ST groups, and one each from the SC and minority communities. Regionally, four MLAs are from the Sarguja region of the north, five from Raipur division, three from Durg division, two from Bastar and one from Bilaspur division.
The important ones in the list are Chintamani Maharaj from T.S. Singhdeo’s Ambikapur, Vikas Upadhyay from Raipur, Ambika Singhdeo from Koriya and Rashmi Singh from Bilaspur. Since there are 69 Congress MLAs in a house of 90, there are more who are not on the lists of ministers and parliamentary secretaries than those on these lists. So several of them are now expecting to be made chairmen of various boards and corporations, which are considered more worthy of their stature and from where they can work ever more for the public.
A list of names of chairmen doing the rounds for some time now has some of the non-MLAs considered close to Baghel. Amongst them is Shailesh Trivedi, who has hopped, skipped and jumped into all camps over the past 20 years to retain his position as media manager of the PCC. There is an all-round belief that he was doing a fine job for Raman Singh rather than the Congress. Others include Gurmukh Singh Hora, Rajendra Tiwari and Girish Devangan.
Why these appointments and lists are making waves in Chhattisgarh is because a whole generation of Congressmen, over two decades, has not been in any serious proximity to power. This includes 2.5 years of Jogi and 1.5 years of Baghel. This has led to simmering discontent and an opposition to All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge P.L. Puniya, who appears to have lost all interest in the state once Baghel assumed power. Puniya has limited his visits to the state and interaction with party workers.
The Congress, being the party that it is, is likely to wake up and take note only when it is too late. It happened with Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, and it may happen in Chhattisgarh too.