No slowdown in Chhattisgarh during pandemic: CM Bhupesh Baghel at HTLS 2020
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said on Thursday the entire country suffered during the coronavirus pandemic but there was no slowdown in the state as his government took various steps to tackle the challenges. Baghel was speaking at the 18th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Click here for live coverage of HTLS 2020
“The first thing we did when the nationwide lockdown was announced was to provide free ration to the poor for three months,” Baghel said during the third and last session of the day. He was speaking with Sunetra Choudhury, HT’s national political editor. “The initiatives we took benefitted every person in Chhattisgarh. We provided free food and other facilities to the resident. Only 26,000 workers left the state, while 700,000 came back. But we never let Covid-19 take a toll on the state’s economy. The entire country suffered, but there was no slowdown in Chhattisgarh,” said Baghel.
Speaking about the vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Chhattisgarh chief minister said the Centre must clarify all aspects right from its price, availability and distribution of the shots to people in the states. He pointed to the issues faced by the states after the Centre issued guidelines about PPEs, oxygen cylinders and other equipment needed to fight the rising cases of Covid-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way politics is being approached, Baghel said. “Before this, nothing could move forward without leaders meeting people and party workers but everything has been halted due to Covid-19. Thanks to technology, we can hold virtual conferences and reach out to people. But these changes in our daily lives have been unexpected,” said Baghel.
When asked about the fate of the Congress party, Baghel said the numbers are there for everyone to see and alleged that the central agencies are being misused to change the mandate given by the people. He pointed out to Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, the northeast and Rajasthan, where he said such attempts have been made to alter the mandate to instill fear among the people.
The senior Congress leader also spoke about the party’s performance in the recently-concluded assembly elections in Bihar. “When Congress loses, everyone starts asking questions. The BJP lost in Jharkhand, but nobody asked them anything. Journalists think we are weak, so they launch attacks on us,” he said. “There were several issues behind the Congress party’s performance in the Bihar polls... Congress is analysing all this and you will get the answers. I can’t comment on this from here,” the Chhattisgarh chief minister said.
Baghel also played down the crisis facing Congress, saying the leaders who have voiced their dissent do not speak on national issues and just speak about internal matters of the party in public. “Who has stopped Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad from asking questions? Who has stopped any other leader from raising questions? These leaders don’t speak on national issues but speak about party matters publicly,” said Bhupesh Baghel at HTLS 2020.
Baghel also pitched for Rahul Gandhi, who resigned as the party’s president after Congress’ abysmal performance in the parliamentary elections held last year. “There is great acceptance for Rahul Gandhi among the party’s workers all across the country. He has been touring the country, understands issues and says things with conviction, be it about India’s borders, lockdown, GST, or coronavirus. He is the one of the leaders to speak about issues,” the chief minister said.
Before Baghel, defence minister Rajnath Singh and State Bank of India chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara spoke at HTLS 2020. Randeep Guleria, director of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Brown University School of Public Health dean Dr Ashish K Jha and Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla spoke on the first day of HTLS. Veteran cricketer Kapil Dev and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal were the guests on Day 2 of HTLS. The theme of this year’s HTLS, which is being held virtually, is ‘Defining a New Era’ as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. The live discussions with leaders across sectors will be spread over four weeks and will be held every Thursday and Friday.