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Patan shows signs of being a CM seat, but among basic demands are jobs, water | Political Pulse News

WHILE five-time MLA and Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is likely to have little difficulty retaining Patan, there are murmurs in the VIP constituency about the lack of jobs and something more basic: adequate water supply.

Khruddih village, where Baghel grew up, has all the trappings of its star status, including a nullah system, a community hall for functions and, particularly, good roads – a development attributed to his rise as CM. A resident, Teksingh Thakur, also mentions “the new water tank, the revamped school and tree plantation for beautification”.

However, just 15 km away, the Tulsi village of around 800 people has the same water concerns as others in Patan. “A majority of our population depend on farming and are happy with the pro-farmer promises made by Baghel. But around 200 villagers are labourers who work on these farms, and have little to gain,” says a farmer who does not want to be named, underlining the injustice of a scheme under which while the landless are left out, even those whose grandfathers once worked as farmers are entitled to Rs 10,000 monetary benefit.

Another resident, Sham Yadav, talks about the lack of a hospital, but says the bigger issue for them is the absence of adequate water supply, long after the taps were installed. “We need more water tanks, more borewells.”

The demand of residents of Beloudi village is the same.

Festive offer

Bhupen Baghel, a local Congress leader from the village, admits there is an issue but says the Baghel government has been working to resolve it. “Even in our village (Beloudi), we tried to get two more borewells, but the water levels were too low. In the future, the problem will be resolved. We will also try to put up more water tanks.”

On the Baghel government’s welfare schemes, which the Congress has made the cornerstone of its campaign, the villagers say there is uneven delivery. Mahesh Nishad, 45, questions the use of the unemployment allowance for him, as the upper age limit for it is 35, even as the lack of jobs means he has struggled to find proper employment.

Baghel’s ‘Adarsh Gauthan (model cow-shelter)’ scheme, under which women self-help groups are provided assistance and monetary help by the government, has more takers. Dhaneshwari Sahu of Sikola village says: “Under Gauthan, there are various economic activities, which have provided us an additional income of Rs 2.50 lakh in the past four years, divided among six people. Otherwise, I earned Rs 150 per day from farming, work that lasted four to six months a year. The income was very irregular and low.”

However, ultimately, all these schemes are seen as piecemeal in the absence of larger employment opportunities.

In Patan city, a group of people standing near Atari chowk discuss how graduates have no option but to move out for work.

The Patan Assembly seat has 2.17 lakh voters, a majority of whom are OBC voters belonging to the Sahu community, followed by Kurmis. Both Baghel and his chief rival, nephew and Patan MP Vijay Baghel of the BJP, are Kurmis. They have contested four times against each other, with Baghel Senior winning thrice.

In 2018, Baghel had defeated BJP candidate Motilal Sahu by a comfortable margin of 27,125 votes. Vijay won in 2019 from the Durg Lok Sabha seat (that includes Patan), amid the Narendra Modi wave, by a massive margin of 3.91 lakh votes, against Congress candidate Pratima Chandrakar.

After the OBCs, which also include Dewangans and Yadavs, the community having a sizeable population is the Harijan Satnami Samaj. While the Satnami Samaj within the Scheduled Castes (SC) traditionally votes for the Congress, this time many are expected to back Amit Jogi of the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh-Jogi (JCC-J), the son of the late Congress CM Ajit Jogi.

“In 2018, the JCC-J candidate got 13,147 votes. Ajit Jogi had a strong hold in Patan and it is believed that in 2008, he was one of the reasons behind Baghel losing the elections to Vijay Baghel,” says Shashank Tiwari, a political analyst and senior journalist.

The JCC-J is not far behind the Congress and the BJP in announcing better paddy prices or schemes for women and the girl child.

Apart from the JCC-J, there are two tribal parties in the fray which might take away the tribal vote, around 5% of the total – including the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) and newly formed Hamar Raj. The GGP will also get Dalit votes due to its alliance with the BSP. The 16 candidates in the fray include the Aam Aadmi Party nominee and Independents.

Asked about the work done in his constituency, Baghel says “a lot of development has happened”. “Good roads have been made, every village and section of society have community halls. Solar lights have been put up in several villages and an irrigation system has been set up, where rainwater flowing through nullahs now reaches the farms.”

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The CM also talks about benefits of government schemes reaching villagers, and says more are on the way. “I opened a university while a processing plant for minor forest produce is coming up to meet the employment demand.”

Jitendra Verma, the district head of Durg for the BJP, says promises such as the assurance to make Patan a district remain unfulfilled. “No factory or industry has come up here in the last five years… The Awas Yojna and Jal Jeevan Mission have not been implemented,” he says.

However, in an election that is largely about Baghel, few expect the CM to ultimately not prevail. “My vote share will surely increase,” says Baghel.

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