Revamp mode: Congress replaces Chhattisgarh PCC chief

Signaling that it is on the revamp mode after its loss by a narrow margin in the recent assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, the Congress on Thursday appointed senior leader Bhupesh Baghel as the state's Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, replacing Charan Das Mahant.

Mahant, who had offered his resignation following the party's defeat, was given the post after Maoists had killed Nand Kumar Patel in May but he had proved ineffective to reinvigorate the party.

The announcement was made in New Delhi by AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who said the appointments had been made with immediate effect by party president Sonia Gandhi.

Baghel's appointment is significant due to several reasons and marks the first sensible step of the Congress to restore the order in its Chhattisgarh unit.

The state Congress has a dubious reputation of being managed by the ruling BJP or swayed by the Ajit Jogi camp. Baghel is the only Congress leader in the state to have publicly spoken against both Jogi and Chief Minister Raman Singh.

More than any other Congress leader, Baghel has taken up issues with the Singh government and is among the few party leaders with an untainted image. Be it the Balco land scam, cooperative bank CD scandal or illegal leases by the government to Push Steel, he has fought against the BJP government in court and at press conferences.

Considered close to AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, Bhupesh Baghel was a minister in his Madhya Pradesh cabinet and was later given the ministerial charge by Ajit Jogi.

He now faces a tough task to prepare the party for the Lok Sabha elections next year. The BJP has 10 of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in Chhattisgarh. "We have to leave the past behind and work together now," Bhupesh Baghel said.

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