CHHATTISGA­RH: A NEW PCC CHIEF IS HERE

CM Baghel gets his man in as PCC chief. Mo­han Markam has his work cut out ahead of the by­polls

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

The ap­point­ment of a new Pradesh Congress Com­mit­tee (PCC) pres­i­dent in Chhattisga­rh is an af­fir­ma­tion of life in the grand old party, struck by a sort of de­ci­sion­mak­ing paral­y­sis in the af­ter­math of the Lok Sabha rout and the sub­se­quent res­ig­na­tion of Rahul Gandhi from the post of party pres­i­dent. On June 28, tribal MLA Mo­han Markam took over the job, re­plac­ing Chief Min­is­ter Bhu­pesh Baghel who had held the post since Oc­to­ber 2014. (In­ci­den­tally, the ap­point­ment was made in the name of ex­Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, who has stated that he will not take any de­ci­sions and leave them to his suc­ces­sor.)

Po­lit­i­cal watch­ers have taken note that the All India Congress Com­mit­tee (AICC), the party’s high­est de­ci­son­mak­ing body, has

not taken any de­ci­sions af­ter the Lok Sabha elec­tion but made an ex­cep­tion for Chhattisga­rh. Ap­point­ments of PCC pres­i­dents are due also in Mad­hya Pradesh—where Chief Min­is­ter Ka­mal Nath cur­rently heads the state unit, and in Ra­jasthan where deputy chief min­is­ter Sachin Pi­lot holds the post.

So, how did Baghel pull it off? He was the only Congress CM who Rahul gave an ap­point­ment to. Baghel has not only got a new PCC chief, but also filled up a va­cant cabi­net slot by ap­point­ing Amar­jeet Bha­gat, an­other tribal MLA. With the BJP bet­ting on a tribal, Vikram Usendi from the Bas­tar re­gion, as state pres­i­dent, the Congress could not risk of­fer­ing the post to some­one from an­other com­mu­nity. The sup­port of the trib­als (34 per cent of the vote) was cru­cial to the Congress’s suc­cess in the as­sem­bly elec­tion.

The Congress had to take a call on Bha­gat (who is from the north) or Markam, who is from the south­ern part of the state. Markam was cho­sen fi­nally as he has a keen in­ter­est in or­gan­i­sa­tional work and also be­cause the Congress won the Bas­tar Lok Sabha seat in the south. Markam’s ap­point­ment was also prompted by party heavy­weight T.S. Singhdeo’s op­po­si­tion to Bha­gat. Bha­gat rep­re­sents the Si­ta­pur con­stituency in Sur­guja dis­trict (con­sid­ered Singhdeo’s turf). To as­sert his author­ity, Baghel ap­pointed Bha­gat as a min­is­ter, some­thing Singhdeo was not keen on. Bha­gat is a four­term MLA and is be­ing pro­moted, po­lit­i­cal ob­servers say, as an al­ter­na­tive power cen­tre to Singhdeo in the Am­bika­pur di­vi­sion.

Sources say it was easy for Rahul to take a de­ci­sion on Chhattisga­rh as there are fewer com­pli­ca­tions com­pared to, say, neigh­bour­ing MP. The ap­point­ment of a new PCC pres­i­dent in MP has been long over­due, but getting heavy­weights such as Digvi­jaya Singh and Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia on the same page has been a task.

In Chhattisga­rh, gen­eral sec­re­tary in­charge of the state P.L. Pu­nia too played a role in getting Markam the job. Markam is a twoterm MLA from the Konda­gaon seat in Bas­tar. His first chal­lenge will be to en­sure a vic­tory for the party in the as­sem­bly by­elec­tion in Dan­te­wada and Chi­trakoot, both in Bas­tar. The ur­ban body polls come next. Markam’s el­e­va­tion should help here.

34 is the PER size of CENT the tribal vote in the state

A LOT TO DO Mo­han Markam on a school visit in Khale­mur­vend vil­lage, Bas­tar

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