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
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