The second phase of polling in Chhattisgarh for the 2023 assembly election ended on 17 November. Nileena MS, a staff writer at The Caravan, spoke to Deepak Baij, a member of the legislative assembly from Bastar and the chief of the Congress Pradesh Committee in the state. Baij is contesting from Chitrakot, a constituency in Bastar reserved for Scheduled Tribe candidates. Baij had won the seat in the 2013 and 2018 assembly elections and was elected to the parliament from Bastar, in 2019. He discussed the Congress’s campaign and the policies of its government under Bhupesh Baghel—especially its efforts aimed at Hindus, which resemble the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva politics, and its policies concerning the land-rights of Adivasi peoples in the state, which the party has sidestepped despite grand promises.
Nileena MS: All Congress leaders and party workers that I spoke to sound very confident of the party’s victory in the elections. Has a sense of complacency set in lately?
Deepak Baij: There is no complacency. All our senior leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi have all been campaigning here. The chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel has been attending meetings all across the state. I would say there is no issue with the campaign.
Nileena: Farmers’ issues have been a central focus on the campaigns in the state. Why has the Congress focussed on schemes for farmers this time?
Baij: Chhattisgarh is the land of farmers. Here, farming is a strong pillar that contributes the most to the state’s economy. That is why we had introduced loan waiver for farmers and a minimum support price of Rs 2,500 per quintal for paddy when we came to power in the last elections. This time too, we’ve promised to implement loan waivers and an MSP of Rs 3,200 per quintal of paddy.