‘Centre allocated most of mines to BJP-ruled states… we feel cheated’, says Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel

The Congress, which won the 2018 Chhattisgarh assembly polls with a two-thirds majority, is now upbeat about its prospects in the state in the Lok Sabha elections. In an interview to Chetan Chauhan and Ritesh Mishra, CM Bhupesh Baghel spoke on the alleged corruption charges against former CM Raman Singh, the rise of Left-wing extremism and the state’s poor mining revenue.
You have constituted SITs to investigate the policies of the previous government and the allegations against former CM Raman Singh. The BJP is saying Congress is doing vendetta politics.

During [the 2018 assembly] elections, we raised PDS [public distribution system] and other scams involving Raman Singh’s family and promised to investigate them. When we were in the Opposition, we raised questions about the Jheeram Ghati case [in which several top Congress leaders were killed by Maoists in May 2013], and promised to reinvestigate it. We are fulfilling all promises and doing more than that.

In Chhattisgarh, Rahul Gandhi attacked Raman Singh more than Modi. Does the Congress feel that by attacking him, the probability of winning the LS polls in the state will increase?

Rahul ji was initially attacking Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal… We noticed that size of Modi’s picture on the BJP hoardings in Chhattisgarh reduced and Raman Singh became the main face. This was the first indication that the Modi factor was not working, and the BJP thought Singh’s image will save them. It was then we asked Rahuj ji to attack Singh and no senior BJP leader defended him.

Rahul Gandhi made the farm sector a main electoral issue. What steps have you taken to fulfil your poll promises?

We have waived farm loans of about two million farmers to the tune of Rs 11,000 crore ,without any upper limit. We have increased the paddy procurement rate to Rs 2,500 per quintal [from Rs 1,700 per quintal] , which is now the highest in the country. We have returned the [4,200 hectares] land acquired by the previous BJP government to the tribals of Bastar. The rest of the promises will be fulfilled after the LS polls.

What is your strategy for tackling Maoism?

See, when Chhattisgarh was formed [in 2000], the Maoists were only in three blocks. In the past 15 years of the BJP rule, they have spread to 14 districts. As more forces were deployed, the Maoists’ number rose, clearly showing that bullets-for-bullets is not the right strategy. We should work for the people living in Maoist areas and build trust with them. My government will talk with all stakeholders to build trust and find a solution to the Maoist issue. The present counteroffensive will continue till we prepare a new strategy.

How do you plan to check illegal mining in the state?

We will take strict action against the illegal coal mining in the state. As far as illegal sand mining is concerned, we are making new rules and illegal sand mining will be checked.

What are your reservations about the Centre’s mine allocation policy?

We feel cheated. If all the coal mines in Chhattisgarh would have been auctioned, we would have got a royalty of Rs 2,500 per tonne. But, the Centre allocated most of the mines to the BJP-ruled states under its mine developer-cum-operator (MDO) policy and therefore, we get royalty of just Rs 100 per tonne. I want to ask why the state government has been given the mine if a private player has to be appointed as actual miner?

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