What Baghel Senior's Derogatory Diatribe Against Brahmins And Subsequent Arrest Reveals About Bhupesh Baghel's Politics
The Chhattisgarh CM has distanced himself from his father's derogatory remarks and even had the latter arrested. This is being spun as a 'courageous act'.
However, Baghel's own rise to the position of state Chief Minister was crafted on a social engineering strategy that draws from his father's ideology.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel's father, Nand Kumar Baghel (Baghel senior), was arrested yesterday (7 September) in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, and sent to 15 days in custody for allegedly making derogatory and communal remarks against Brahmins.
According to Baghel senior's lawyer, he did not request bail and would appear before a court on 21 September.
Baghel senior heads a group for voter awareness and often position himself as a prominent voice of OBCs(Other Backward Classes).
Baghels hail from the influential Kurmi (Other Backward Class) community, which accounts for around 14 per cent of Chhattisgarh's population.
During a recent visit to poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Baghel senior called for a "boycott" of Brahmins and described them as "foreigners". He urged people not to let Brahmins enter their villages.
"Brahmins will be sent from the river Ganga to Volga. They are foreigners. They consider us untouchables and are snatching all our rights. I will urge villagers to not let Brahmins enter their village," Baghel senior had said.
Baghel senior is known for his anti-Brahmin views, in line with the 'Aryan racial theory'. His book on the theme was banned in 2000 by the Congress government at the time. He embraced Buddhism in the late 1970s.
His book titled Brahman Kumar Rawan Ko Mat Marro called for an end to the burning of effigies of Ravana.
In 2018, Baghel senior had written to the Congress leadership, ahead of the assembly elections, asking them to give 85 per cent of the party tickets to SC-ST-OBC candidates and not to Brahmins, Thakurs and Banias.
In 2019, when Baghel senior’s wife passed away, he wanted to perform her last rites according to Buddhist norms but Bhupesh Baghel objected and eventually his mother’s last rites were conducted according to Hindu beliefs.
As the video of his comments against Brahmins emerged, an FIR was registered in Raipur on the complaint of the Sarv Brahmin Samaj on Saturday night. The charges on the complaint included "promoting enmity between groups".
After his father was charged last week, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister had stressed that he would get no special treatment.
"Nobody is above the law before my government, even if he is the Chief Minister's 86-year-old father. As Chief Minister, I have the responsibility to maintain harmony among different communities. If he made a remark against a community, I am sorry. Legal action will be taken," Bhupesh Baghel had told reporters on Sunday.
"Everyone knows about my ideological differences with my father. Our political thoughts and beliefs are different. I respect him as his son, but as Chief Minister, I cannot forgive him for such mistakes which disturb public order," he was quoted as saying by NDTV.
He also underlined that the Chhattisgarh government "respects every religion, caste and community and their sentiment". He emphasized his point on Twitter.
After Baghel senior's hateful comments went viral, the Opposition party in Chhattisgarh, the BJP, pressed the Chief Minister to act. Sources say the former's arrest in Raipur was to preempt any trouble for Bhupesh Baghel in poll-bound UP, where the aggrieved community leaders had urged UP CM Yogi Adityanath to take action.
Though CM Baghel attempted to distance himself from his father's derogatory remark and Congress's media spin masters cast the arrest as a 'courageous act', Bhupesh Baghel's rise to the position of state Chief Minister was crafted on a social engineering strategy that draws from his father's ideology.
Despite being accused of involvement in corruption scams and murky deals, Baghel was elevated to the post of chief minister by the Congress high command, overlooking the claims of several strong contenders such as Tamradhwaj Sahu, TS Singh Deo and Charan Das Mahant.
Baghel was credited with playing an instrumental role in convincing a significant section of state's OBC population to shift allegiance to Congress ahead of 2018 state assembly elections. OBCs, who constitute close to 45 per cent of the state population, have historically favoured BJP and PM Narendra Modi.
Baghel was hence was seen as a possible conduit by the Congress in its attempts to make inroads in to the OBC vote bank in central and northern India.
The strategy however came a cropper in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as the Modi juggernaut decimated the Congress in northern and central India. Even the dominant OBC castes including Sahus and Kurmis returned to BJP fold and voted almost en masse for the saffron party in the Lok Sabha election.
In attempt to revive the party's fortunes after the humiliating loss in the Lok Sabha election, Baghel announced a move to double the reservation quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from 14 per cent to 27 per cent while the quota for Scheduled Castes (SCs) was marginally hiked to 13 per cent. Chhattisgarh has 32 per cent quota for Scheduled Tribes. Along with the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota, the total reservation percentage in the state reached a whopping 82 per cent.
Baghel followed up his announcement by passing an ordinance to increase the quota. Chhattisgarh's 72 per cent reservation was the highest in the country and 22 percentage points more than the 50 per cent cap on quotas mandated by the Supreme Court. However, the Bilaspur high court’s struck down the increase in reservations for OBCs in Chhattisgarh.
For Bhupesh Baghel, the controversy from his father comes at a difficult time. His in-house rival TK Singh Deo, who had laid claim to his job saying he had been assured by the Congress leadership of rotational chief ministership, has been voicing his discontent of late. Deo had asserted that he would come to power after Baghel's half-term was done.
On the other hand, Baghel refused to submit to any leadership change and made it clear to his party bosses that most MLAs were on his side. Both the leaders rushed to Delhi for meetings as the issue simmered. After a series of meetings in Delhi, Rahul Gandhi reportedly told Baghel that he would keep his job.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.