‘I don’t think we should be talking to Naxals’

Bhupesh Baghel, the new Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, is considered one of the architects of the Congress’s victory in the recent Assembly election. In a free-wheeling interview, he talked about how he rebuilt the Congress after being appointed president of the party State unit in 2014, his agenda for governance, and approach to tackling Maoist violence. Excerpts:Historically, the Congress has been strong in the State. When Ajit Jogi became the Chief Minister of the newly formed State in 2000, people did not like him, for whatever reasons. This is the first time that we fought without Jogi. That is the first reason.When I was made party president in 2014, I realised that by the time of the 2018 election, the BJP would have finished 15 years in office, and it would have all the resources… We had lost the Assembly three times and parliamentary elections three times. Congress workers had fallen into despondency due to repeated failures. We had absolutely no resources. We had no leadership. All our leaders — Mahendra Karma, V.C. Shukla, Nandkumar Patel… the entire leadership was lost in a tragic way [in a Maoist attack in 2013]. I brought into the party’s leadership a host of leaders between the ages of 35 and 50. In some districts, I made NSUI [National Students Union of India] leaders DCC [District Congress Committee] presidents. We observed that the BJP had turned a good section of the State administration into their blind followers. We brainstormed. The conclusion was, unless we activate our booth-level network, we have no chance of beating the BJP’s tactics. We decided that we must have at least 10-15 people in each booth, who cannot be lured or threatened. In all 90 constituencies, we did training programmes two times.

Source Link : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/i-dont-think-we-should-be-talking-to-naxals/article25829645.ece

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