The path ahead is not easy for Chief Minister Vishnu Dev Sai, there is a crown of thorns on his head.

It has been more than a month since the Chhattisgarh Assembly election results were declared and after allotment of portfolios to all the ministers, the work of formation of BJP government with full majority in the state has been completed. After waiting for several days, the portfolios of ministers were recently divided in Chhattisgarh, in which Chief Minister Vishnu Dev has kept five departments with himself while both the Deputy Chief Ministers have also been assigned important departments. The Chief Minister has kept the General Administration Department, Minerals, Public Relations, Transport and Excise Department with himself, while Deputy Chief Minister Arun Sao has been given the responsibility of Public Works along with PHE, Law and Urban Administration Department. Apart from the Home Department, Second Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sharma has been given the Department of Panchayat and Rural Development, Technical Education, Employment, Science and Technology. Chhattisgarh can have a maximum of 13 ministers including the Chief Minister and apart from the Chief Minister and two Deputy Chief Ministers, there can be 10 more ministers in the state.

School Education, Higher Education, Parliamentary Affairs, Religious Trust, Tourism and Culture Department to Brijmohan Aggarwal, Tribal Development, Scheduled Caste Development, Backward Class and Minority Development, Agricultural Development and Farmers Welfare Department to Ramvichar Netam, Food Civil Supplies to Dayaldas Baghel. and Consumer Protection Department, Kedar Kashyap to Forest and Climate Change, Water Resources, Skill Development and Cooperation Department, Lakhanlal Dewangan to Commerce and Industry and Labor Department, Shyam Bihari Jaiswal to Public Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education, Twenty Point Implementation Department, OP Chaudhary has been allotted Finance, Commercial Tax, Housing and Environment, Planning Economics and Statistics Department, Lakshmi Rajwade has been allotted Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department and Tankram Verma has been allotted Sports and Youth Welfare, Revenue and Disaster Management Department. After the allocation of all the departments, one post of minister remains vacant, which will be filled later. On December 13, 10 days after the results of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections were declared on December 3, Vishnu Dev Sai along with two Deputy Chief Ministers Arun Sao and Vijay Sharma were sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state. In the subsequent cabinet expansion, 9 MLAs were sworn in as ministers on December 22, who were allotted portfolios about a week later.

The most special thing about Vishnudev Sai Cabinet is that special attention has been given to all sections of the society in the Sai Cabinet. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP high command has taken such care of the caste equations among the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and ministers so that voters of all sections can be accommodated in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. 2 General, 6 OBC, 3 ST and 1 SC have been included in the 12-member cabinet of the state. The cabinet includes 8-time MLA Brijmohan Aggarwal, senior leaders Kedar Kashyap, Dayaldas Baghel and Ramvichar Netam, who have been ministers in the previous BJP government, while Arun Sao, Vijay Sharma, IAS-turned-politician OP Choudhary and Tankaram Verma are the first-time ministers. After becoming MLA, he has become a minister whereas Shyam Bihari Jaiswal and Lakhanlal Dewangan have been MLAs once before also. Of the total 12 ministers including the Chief Minister, maximum 6 have been appointed from the OBC category, which includes Deputy Chief Minister Arun Sao, Lakhanlal Dewangan, Shyam Bihari Jaiswal, Tankram Verma, OP Chaudhary and Laxmi Rajwade, while Chief Ministers Vishnu Dev Sai, Ramvichar Netam and Kedar Kashyap are from the Scheduled Caste category. Belongs to tribal category. Dayaldas Baghel from SC category i.e. Scheduled Caste and Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sharma and Brijmohan Agarwal from general category have been included in the cabinet. Lakshmi Rajwade is the only woman member in the cabinet.

However, with the formation of the BJP government in Chhattisgarh, a period of challenges has begun for the SAI government, with which it will have to struggle continuously. The biggest challenge is to raise additional revenue of thousands of crores of rupees to speed up the development works in the state. In fact, if the announcements made by BJP to the public during the assembly elections as ‘Modi’s Guarantee’ are implemented, it is going to be a huge hit to the government exchequer. In such a situation, the Chief Minister will face a big challenge to fulfill the promises made to farmers, workers and women. It is believed that a major reason for BJP’s crushing defeat in 2018 was its manifesto, but in this election, BJP took special care of it and made a lot of promises to the public and the party called its manifesto as ‘Modi’s manifesto for Chhattisgarh. Gave it the name of ‘Guarantee’ and the public also expressed confidence in ‘Modi’s Guarantee’. In such a situation, there will be a big challenge to materialize all the guarantees given by the BJP before the Lok Sabha elections and provide direct benefits to the public and certainly in these circumstances, the way forward is not easy for the Chief Minister.

During the elections, BJP had not only promised the public that it would purchase 21 quintals of paddy per acre from the farmers, but in its resolution letter had also promised to purchase paddy at the rate of Rs 3100 per quintal, while the support price of paddy was Rs 2300. Is Rs. In such a situation, the government will now have to pay an additional amount of Rs 800 per quintal to the farmers on the purchase of paddy, for which the government will need additional revenue of about Rs 10 thousand crore. The government will spend about Rs 45 thousand crore on paddy purchase. Similarly, if the promise of giving Rs 12 thousand annually to women is implemented, then the government will have to arrange a fund of about nine and a half thousand crores for about 70 lakh married women of Chhattisgarh. Women from poor families were also promised gas cylinders for Rs 500. In such a situation, more than Rs 570 crore will be spent on landless agricultural laborers and about Rs 1000 crore will be spent on gas cylinder subsidy. BJP had also promised to recruit one lakh government posts during the elections.

Fulfilling all these promises made by the BJP during the elections will involve huge expenditure and it is a big challenge for the BJP to fulfill these promises by improving the financial condition of Chhattisgarh which is already in debt. Overall, BJP will have to spend an estimated amount of Rs 65 thousand crores to fulfill the promises. At present, Chhattisgarh is burdened with a debt of about Rs 82 thousand crores. It is believed that in 2018, when BJP’s Raman Singh left the chair and Bhupesh Baghel took power, the state had a debt of Rs 41695 crore, but by 2023 this debt has doubled. The situation had become so bad that the Baghel government had to pay annual interest of about Rs 6,000 crore on the loan. However, BJP has not only come to power in Chhattisgarh with a strong majority but has also learned many lessons by closely observing the mistakes and wrongdoings of the Congress during its five-year tenure. In such a situation, it should be expected in the interest of the state that BJP’s new Chief Minister Sao and all the ministers of his cabinet will take special care that even after all kinds of directly beneficial schemes, if the voters reject the Congress and get full majority. If we have handed over power to BJP, then the present BJP government should avoid such mistakes and wrongdoings.

However, now it remains to be seen how much Vishnudev Sai, as the new Chief Minister, will live up to the expectations of the BJP high command as well as the public, how his working methods are, how much he can improve the governance and administration. How much economic development can we achieve in the state and how much credibility we can earn among the people under our leadership.

-Yogesh Kumar Goyal

(The author is a senior journalist continuously active in journalism for 34 years)

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