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Baghel govt brings soft Hindutva on Congress agenda for Chhattisgarh polls

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.

Raipur: Six months ahead of the assembly elections, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his Congress government are making significant strides by embracing a softer version of Hindutva with its latest endeavour of hosting a spectacular three-day event called “The National Ramayana Festival”, starting from June 1.

Over the past four and a half years, the Baghel government has skilfully intertwined the essence of Lord Ram’s epic journey, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of development along the Ram Van Gaman Path.

During the event to be held at the industrial town of Raigarh, Ramayan Mandalis from Cambodia and Indonesia will deliver a special performance on the Aranya Kand, while 12 troupes from different parts of the country will entertain the audience with their enchanting performances centred around the captivating themes of ‘Aranya Kand.’ Besides, there will be collective chanting of Hanuman Chalisa and a daily Maha-aarti at Kelo River throughout the three-day extravaganza.

Since coming to power in December 2018, the Baghel government has consistently worked towards aligning soft Hindutva through a series of events, including grand celebrations related to the Ram Van Gaman Path. In the budget for the election year, Baghel has allocated Rs 12 crore for the international Ramayana Festival, emphasizing its potential to provide the people of the state with an opportunity to understand the various versions of the Ramayana from around the world. The budget also includes a provision of Rs 10 crore for the Kaushalya Mahotsav at the ancient Mata Kausalya Temple, the only temple dedicated to the mother of Lord Ram, and for the promotion of Ramlila and Manas singing parties.

In 2021, the Congress government took the initiative to renovate the ancient Mata Kausalya temple as part of the Ram Van Gaman tourism circuit project. Chief Minister Baghel inaugurated the temple during a grand ceremony on the first day of Navratri.

However, the chief minister’s efforts to organize a state-wide Manas Mandli or Ramayana recitation last year faced resistance from tribal communities in the Bastar region. The Sarva Adivasi Samaj, a powerful body representing tribal communities, wrote to the Governor expressing their opposition, citing the violation of tribal customs in an area governed by the provisions of the fifth schedule of the Constitution. Consequently, the administration in Sukma had to cancel the event.

Regarding issues related to minorities, the Congress government has been ‘extra-cautious’ to ensure that it is not seen as siding with them. A couple of incidents of communal violence in Narayanpur in Bastar and in Bemetra district have occurred in the recent past, and minority groups have complained that none of the Congress leaders, including ministers, visited these areas.

In addition to vigorously promoting the regional identity of ‘Chhattisgarhiya,’ the Congress chief minister’s primary focus over the past four and a half years has also been on the welfare of farmers. He introduced the “Nyay” schemes, which involve providing agricultural subsidies directly to farmers’ accounts. Fulfilling his election manifesto promises, the Baghel government ensured that farmers received Rs 2500 per quintal for every ton of paddy procured under the minimum support price scheme (MSP), with the government covering the difference as an agricultural subsidy. Besides other Nyay schemes, such as the purchase of cow dung and cow urine, were introduced to provide financial support to agricultural labourers and other rural residents.

Chief Minister Baghel has consistently emphasized that his government’s schemes have brought financial security to farmers, the poor, labourers, and other segments of society. He believes that empowering the common man with financial resources lies at the core of his government’s welfare initiatives, which have ultimately strengthened the rural economy.

Moreover, the Congress government’s focus has been on cows as it introduced schemes such as Gauthans (shelters for cows), purchased cow dung at a price, and converted it into vermicompost. It also introduced a scheme to procure cow urine and set up centres in the villages for making products based on cow dung.

For the elections due in November, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has set the narrative that revolves around Lord Ram, farmers, the rural economy, and ‘Chhattisgarhiya’ pride.