Baghel is banking on the development and welfare schemes of his government, like the one to procure cow dung from farmers. “We have brought about a visible change in peoples’ lives. There is now financial security for farmers, the poor, labourers and others due to our schemes. Other states may be seeing an economic slowdown, but not Chhattisgarh. Over Rs 1.5 lakh crore has directly gone into peoples’ accounts. This helps people buy things, creating a virtuous economic cycle. This change is visible even in Bastar,” Baghel, who completed four years as CM on Saturday, said.
What are the challenges in election year? “Whatever challenges are there, are our own. I don’t consider BJP a challenge in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh has minerals and other natural resources in abundance but why are 40% people still poor? Malnutrition is 41%. We have a Maoist insurgency problem,” he said.
Actions by central agencies like ED and I-T are part of a conspiracy, he said. “You (BJP) are unable to fight politically, so you are trying to defame, discredit and harass us. But the people are watching everything. They will answer. The previous BJP government, headed by Raman Singh, arrested me and see what happened next. Hum darne wale, jhukne wale log nahi (We are not the sort of people to be afraid or bow before them),” he said.
Rahul Gandhi‘s Bharat Jodo Yatra is bringing about a “massive change”, he believes. “People are fed up with the environment of hate, inflation and unemployment. Life will not move on with this. People want jobs, development, education and health. Mark my words, change is coming,” Baghel said.
He doesn’t think factionalism in Congress will have an impact, and dismisses AAP despite the party hurting Congress on 31 seats in the recent Gujarat election. “They may not be successful here as the situation in every state is different. Chhattisgarh has always been a bipolar state and AAP will not be in a position to cause any dent here. They may try, but AAP has no significance here. It is not even worth discussing,” he said.
Asked about the Centre turning down his demand for the return of the money deposited by Chhattisgarh residents under the new pension scheme, the CM said: “Nobody can stop the old pension scheme (restored in the state this March). It is the employees’ funds. It’s their contribution and it’s their money. They can withdraw it.”