State Congress president Bhupesh Baghel will be the next Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and will take oath of office on Monday evening.

The decision was taken following four days of hectic deliberations which also saw the involvement of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Baghel’s name was announced by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday afternoon at the party headquarters in Raipur. The announcement came in the presence of the 68-member Congress Legislature party (CLP).

The powerful OBC leader is credited for ending the 15-year rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Naxal-hit state.

The 58-year-old Baghel will be sworn in as the state’s fifth Chief Minister, and only the third person to become so, at Raipur’s Science College Grounds at 4.30 pm. According to reports, Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be present at the swearing-in ceremony.

“For appointment of Deputy CM and Cabinet, decision will be taken after I take oath tomorrow. Many national leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and CM of several states are expected to be present in the oath-taking ceremony,” Baghel told reporters after meeting Governor Anandiben Patel in Raipur.

When asked to comment on the problem of naxalism in the state, Baghel said, “The problem of naxalism is a very serious problem. Nobody can solve it instantly. They have a very strong hold. We will be successful in eliminating them if firm steps are taken with the support of the people in the naxal-affected areas.”

Shortly after he was elected the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader by the MLAs at the party office Rajiv Bhavan, Baghel announced, “I am committed to waiving farmers’ bank loans within 10 days.”

He added that the Congress government will unravel the conspiracy that led to the killing by Maoists of top Congress leaders in the Jheeram Valley in Bastar in May 2013 including the then state Congress chief Nandkumar Patel, the veteran VC Shukla and Mahendra Karma.

“Celebrations are in order in Chhattisgarh as Bhupesh Baghel is appointed CM. We wish him the best as he forms a government of equality, transparency and integrity starting off with farm loan waiver for farmers as we promised,” the Congress tweeted from its official Twitter handle.

 

The five-time MLA was elected from Patan in Durg district. He was Revenue Minister in Ajit Jogi’s first government in Chhattisgarh that was voted out in 2003.

Baghel was also in the centre-stage of the ousted BJP government’s attacks and was recently jailed for some days in Raipur after he was charge-sheeted by the CBI for his alleged role in the circulation of a sleaze CD against a powerful BJP Minister in Chhattisgarh.

Baghel’s OBC community makes up 52 per cent of the state’s 2.55 crore population.