The Many U-Turns Of Bhupesh Baghel

Anand Walunjkar

Sep 05, 2020, 03:11 PM | Updated 03:10 PM IST

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel (Representative Image) (Bhupesh Baghel/Twitter)
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel (Representative Image) (Bhupesh Baghel/Twitter)
  • Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had demanded action against many State officials when he was in the Opposition.
  • Today, many of those enjoy important responsibilities and posts in his government.
  • The Bhupesh Baghel government in Chhattisgarh might have been giving rosy advertisements on national and local media, but a lot of the decisions it has taken recently have raised eyebrows.

    Let us look at some of the most controversial appointments made by the government:

    Parliamentary Secretaries: The bulky 69-MLA Congress government found it difficult to accommodate the majority of its MLAs in the government.

    This would not be an issue if there was no infighting, but several factions like that of Tamradhwaj Sahu, T S Singhdeo, and Charandas Mahant constantly compete for a piece of the pie.

    So, the CM appointed 15 of Congress MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries and six MLAs as chairpersons of state-owned boards or corporations.

    The Parliamentary Secretaries get all the perks of a junior Minister, bungalows and cars.

    Ironically, it was the Congress, when in Opposition, that created a furore over such appointments in the State and one its leaders, Mohammed Akbar, who is now a Cabinet Minister, went on to file a case against the then BJP regime.

    Incidentally, this decision was taken during the whole Sachin Pilot dissent episode in Rajasthan and has been considered a move towards pacification of possible dissent in Chhattisgarh.

    NAN Chairman: The Nagrik Apurti Nigam (NAN), which is the backbone of the Public Distribution System in Chhattisgarh, has come under the scanner for the NAN scam in previous regimes.

    But the current appointment of Ramgopal Agrawal as its chairman, has raised many eyebrows. Since he is the owner of a large rice mill himself, and NAN is the nodal agency for purchase and sale of rice from millers, it poses a serious question of conflict of interest.

    It is just as if a player of one team is also made the referee of the same game.

    Moreover, Agrawal is also the treasurer of the Congress party in Chhattisgarh.

    Principal Secretary (Legislative Affairs): The appointment of retired officer Alok Shukla by going out of the way to give him a three-year contractual extension has puzzled State observers.

    Clearly, it appears to violate rules, as usually, contractual employment at these levels is given for only a year and not three.

    It is also shocking because he is one of the accused in the Rs. 1,000-crore NAN scam.

    In fact, then Leader of Opposition, T S Singhdeo, and PCC President Bhupesh Baghel (now CM), had written a letter to the PM demanding prosecution and inquiry against him and another IAS officer, Anil Tuteja.

    But now he is reinstated and also given charge of many important responsibilities, including school education department, skill development, technical education and professional examination board.

    Special Secretary (Industries): As mentioned above, Anil Tuteja has transitioned to becoming the apple of the Congress regime's eye.

    He had also held the NAN portfolio and came to limelight during the PDS scam, during which Rs 80 lakh was recovered from his Personal Assistant after which he was suspended for over two years, but reinstated by the Baghel government and made Special Secretary, Industries.

    In fact, BJP MLA Devji Bhai Patel has written to the IB, CBI and CVC, with flight details, seeking an investigation into how he was able to conduct foreign travels to 12 countries including Canada, Hong Kong, and Dubai without duly informing the government.

    An IAS officer, he was raided by Income Tax officials in February this year, along with his wife Meenakshi Tuteja.

    Even though Baghel sought to remove him when in Opposition, now he seems to be the favourite of the establishment.

    Additional Advocate-General: The Baghel government recently appointed Arjun Bobde, the nephew of Chief Justice of India, Sharad Bobde, as the new Additional Advocate-General for the state of Chhattisgarh.

    As such, this looks an innocuous decision, but given that there is an outgoing case in the Supreme Court against CM Bhupesh Baghel for allegedly trying to implicate BJP leader Rajesh Munat in a sex CD case, this appointment assumes significance.

    Questions are being asked if this is an attempt to influence the judiciary at the highest level and is, therefore, considered controversial.

    Deputy Secretary of CM: Saumya Chaurasia came into the limelight when Income Tax officials raided her house which she locked and refused search operations for two days until the officials pitched tents in front of her house and refused to back off.

    She still enjoys the confidence of the CM and continues to serve as his Deputy Secretary.

    Questions are being asked as to why tainted officials continue to serve at the behest of the Congress CM.

    Bhupesh tax: A new policy announced by the Bhupesh government has consequently resulted in extortion of Rs 25 per tonne of coal at the barriers during the time of their transport.

    Contractors complain their material is not allowed to proceed through if they do not pay this money.

    This is jokingly now being called the 'Bhupesh tax' by local businessmen.

    All the above points indicate that the Chief Minister has made a conscious decision to go against his own stand when he was in the Opposition, and has taken a complete U-turn when in government.

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