Bhutan- India relations

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Bhutan-India relations: the 1960s onwards

Suhasini Haidar | The crossroads at the Doklam plateau | JULY 26, 2017 | The Hindu

There are many strings that tie Bhutan to India in a special and unique relationship, but none are as strong as the ones laid down on the ground: 1,500 km, to be precise, of roads that have been built by India across the Himalayan kingdom’s most difficult mountains and passes.

Since 1960, when Bhutan’s King Jigme Wangchuk (the present King’s grandfather) entrusted the then Prime Minister, Jigme Dorji, with modernising the country, that had previously stayed closed to the world, those roads built and maintained by the Indian Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under Project Dantak have brought the countries together for more than one reason.

A one-way street?

“All the new roads [they] proposed to construct were being aligned to run southwards towards India from the main centres of Bhutan. Not a single road was planned to be constructed to the Tibetan (Chinese) border,” recounted one of independent India’s pioneers in forging ties with Bhutan, Nari Rustomji, a bureaucrat who also served as the Dewan, or Prime Minister, of Sikkim from 1954 to 1959, in his book Dragon Kingdom in Crisis . When the Chinese presented a fork in the road, Rustomji said, “with feelers to bring Bhutan within the orbit of their influence”, Bhutan stood firm in “maintaining an independent stand”.

Just a few years later, during the India-China war of 1962, Bhutan showed its sympathies definitely lay with India, but it still wouldn’t bargain on that independent stand: when Indian soldiers retreated from battle lines in Arunachal Pradesh, they were given safe passage through eastern Bhutan, but on the condition that soldiers would deposit their rifles at the Trashigang Dzong armoury, and travel through Bhutan to India unarmed. (The rifles lie there till today.)

Bhutanese- Chinese discussions about Doklam

The Doklam plateau is an area that China and Bhutan have long discussed, over 24 rounds of negotiations that began in 1984. In the early 1990s China is understood to have made Bhutan an offer that seemed attractive to the government in Thimphu: a “package deal” under which the Chinese agreed to renounce their claim over the 495-sq.-km disputed land in the Pasamlung and Jakarlung valleys to the north, in exchange for a smaller tract of disputed land measuring 269 sq. km, the Doklam plateau. Several interlocutors have confirmed that the offer was repeated by China at every round, something Bhutan’s King and government would relay to India as well. While India was able to convince Bhutan to defer a decision, things did change after India and Bhutan renegotiated their friendship treaty in 2007, and post-2008, when Bhutan’s first elected Prime Minister Jigme Thinley began to look for a more independent foreign policy stance. Some time during this period, the PLA is understood to have built the dirt track at Doklam that is at the centre of the current stand-off, including the “turning point”, and the Bhutanese army appears not to have objected to it then.

During the next five years of his tenure, Mr. Thinley conducted more rounds of talks, including on the ‘Doklam package’, and even held a controversial meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (in Rio de Janeiro, 2012), suggesting that Bhutan was thinking of establishing consular relations with China, much to India’s chagrin. During this time, Bhutan also increased the number of countries with which it had diplomatic relations from 22 to 53, and even ran an unsuccessful campaign for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

By 2013, India took matters in hand, and the Manmohan Singh government’s decision to withdraw energy subsidies to Bhutan on the eve of its general elections that summer contributed to Jigme Thinley’s shock defeat. When the new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s government prepared his first round of boundary talks with Beijing a few months later, New Delhi took no chances. It dispatched both National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to Thimphu to brief him. China, it would seem, realised it could no longer press the Doklam point, and a year later even offered India the Nathu La pass route through Sikkim for Kailash-Mansarovar yatris.

With the latest stand-off, that includes the cancellation of the Nathu La route, China appears to be back in the eastern great game that Bhutan has become, or an “egg between two rocks”, as a senior Bhutanese commentator described it. India must also consider that the PLA road construction that brought Indian troops to Bhutanese territory may be what is known as a “forcing move” in chess. By triggering a situation where Indian soldiers occupy land that isn’t India’s for a prolonged period, Beijing may have actually planned to show up India’s intentions in an unfavourable light to the people of Bhutan.

Bhutan is also the only country in the region that joined India in its boycott of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s marquee project, the Belt and Road Initiative. In China’s thinking, any reconsideration of Bhutan’s unique ties with India, forged all those decades ago in asphalt and concrete, would be not only a prize, but possible payback.

Project Dantak, 1961: Border Roads Organisation

Border Roads Organisation

Brig PKG Mishra

Bhutan is a beautiful country nestling in the Eastern Himalayas. Its snow capped peaks, turbulent rivers with wide green valleys at high altitudes, steep hilly terrain and thick forest over, create a magnificent landscape. Bhutan has an area of 46,620 Sq km and lies between the parallel ranges of the outer Himalayas in the north and inner Himalayas in the south. Annual rainfall varies between 500 mm to 2,000 mm in the northern region and from 2,000 mm to 5,000 in the south. The southern ranges are broken gorges scoured out by the main rives of Bhutan, the Amochu (Torsa), the Wangchu (Raidak), the Mochu (Sankosh) and the Dongme Chu (Manas) which flow mostly in the north-south direction and being snow fed carry substantial flow during the non-monsoon months. The mountain spurs run in north-south direction and descend from heights of over 6,000 m to the foothills near the Indo-Bhutan border.

By the end of year 1960, Bhutan had realized the need to planned social and economic development. Therefore, His Majesty the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck launched the First Five Year Plan (1961 - 1966) in July 61. Until 1960, Bhutan had no motorable roads. It was connected only by footpaths and mule tracks. As development of roads and transport system play a vital role in the economic and social development of the country, primary importance was given to these sectors during the first three Five Year Plans of Bhutan. Total grant of development of roads was 58.7% in First Five Year Plan, 34.9% in Second Five Year Plan, 17.8% in Third Five Year Plan, 11.6% in Fourth Five Year Plan, 15.3% in Fifth Five Year Plan, 9.3% in Sixth Five Year Plan and 7.8% in Seventh Five Year Plan. It was against this background that Project Dantak came into being.

Project Dantak was raised in May 1961 at Samdrup Jongkar in Eastern Bhutan. A humble beginning was made in bamboo huts and thatched roofs. Since then Project Dantak has not looked back. It has contributed to economic growth of Bhutan by not only developing roads and tele-communication net works but also other prestigious works throughout Bhutan. Over the years, Project Dantak has constructed 1500 Km of roads, airfield at Paro and Yangphula, number of helipads, tele-communication net work in Bhutan, Indo-Bhutan Microwave link, Bhutan Broadcasting Station, the prestigious India House Complex, Chukha Hydel Housing Complex, Hydel Sub-stations, river training works, Schools and Colleges. The list of accomplishments is endless and in the coming years it is hoped that works like Infrastructure for Kurichu Hydel Project, Dungsum Cement Plant and Tala Hydel Poject will be added.

Today Dantak is a household name in Bhutan. It has carved a niche in this beautiful foreign country with the goodwill of citizens of Bhutan, Royal patronage of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan and the support of the Indian Embassy in Bhutan.

Bhutan-India relations: 2012-13

Ex-PM’s Global Moves Left New Delhi Cold

Keshav Pradhan | TNN

The Times of India 2013/07/12

Bhutan’s relations with the UN Big Five

New Delhi is understood to be upset (in 2012-13) with the manner Bhutan under Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) allegedly overlooked India’s basic national interests in the past five years.

Bhutan’s stated policy is that it won’t allow the UN Big Five to have diplomatic missions in Thimphu. But, New Delhi believes, Bhutan circumvented this by appointing a Briton to act as UK’s honorary consul in its capital and subsequently gave him Bhutanese citizenship. This, many felt, is not in alignment with Bhutan’s stated policy. So far, the kingdom, acknowledged as India’s staunchest ally worldwide, had refrained from taking any such step in deference to Delhi’s security concerns.

Meeting with Chinese premier: 2012

Ex-PM Jigmi Y Thinley’s critics in Bhutan and India claimed that the first strain in bilateral ties appeared over the way he described his meeting with then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in 2012. They alleged that although the meeting was “pre-arranged”, Thimphu projected it as “an impromptu interaction”. They were of the view that such “distortion” of facts made New Delhi suspicious of Thimphu’s intentions.

India, Thinley’s detractors claimed, did not take kindly to the alleged use of Chinese experts to instal heavy machinery in Bhutan. For China, they said, investing in a small country like Bhutan is a pittance.

Amid reports of friction in India-Bhutan friendship, New Delhi [in June 2013] cut cooking gas and kerosene subsidies for Bhutan. This not only became an election issue but also spread fear among the Bhutanese that India would punish their country because of diplomatic reasons.

The opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) defeated the then-ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) in the 2013 elections. On August 1 India restored subsidized gas supply to Bhutan.

Direct friendship with the palace and the people

Many saw New Delhi’s decision to invite the King to 2013’s Republic Day ceremony as a signal that it wants to directly deal with the palace and the people. All Bhutanese Kings, according to them, have been great protagonists of India-Bhutan friendship.

A revision of the India-Bhutan Treaty, 1949

It was perhaps because of this that New Delhi in 2007 agreed to revise the 1949 India-Bhutan Treaty after the king reportedly expressed his wish to have an agreement suitable to a country on the threshold of democracy. The revised treaty gave Thimphu freedom to pursue an independent foreign policy. A year later, the kingdom embraced democracy.

The revision of the treaty enabled the DPT government to extend Bhutan’s diplomatic ties from 21 to 53 countries between 2008 and 2013. New Delhi apparently wanted Thimphu to take geo-political realities into consideration while expanding its diplomacy across the globe.

Bhutan’s political system

In 2008, DTP won 45 of 47 seats and PDP two.

Bhutan follows a bi-party system. In the primary round that was held weeks ago to choose the top two parties for Saturday’s polls, DPT won in 33 and PDP 12. The remaining two seats went to Druk Nyamdrup Tshogpa that merged with the PDP.

June 2014: Indian PM's tour

10 key points of PM Narendra Modi's Bhutan visit

The Times of India TNN | Jun 16, 2014

His 2-day Bhutan trip was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first foreign trip since assuming charge. During Modi's tour, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to extensive development cooperation and discussed ways to further enhance economic ties.

Here are some of the key points of Modi's visit to the Himalayan nation:

1. India and Bhutan reiterated their commitment to achieving the 10,000 MW target in hydropower cooperation and not to allow their territories to be used for interests "inimical" to each other.

2. Modi inaugurated one of India's assistance projects - the building of the Supreme Court of Bhutan and laid foundation stone of the 600MW Kholongchu Hydro-electric project, a joint venture between India and Bhutan.

3. India also announced a number of measures and concessions including the exemption of Bhutan from any ban on export of milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati rice.

4. The two sides recalled the free trade arrangement between them and the expanding bilateral trade and its importance in further cementing their friendship.

5. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mooted the idea of an annual hill sports festival with India's northeastern states along with Bhutan and Nepal.

6. Modi announced doubling of scholarships being provided to Bhutanese students in India which will now be worth Rs 2 crore.

7. India will also assist Bhutan set up a digital library which will provide access to Bhutanese youth to two million books and periodicals.

8. Both India-Bhutan reaffirmed their commitment to extensive development cooperation and discussed ways to further enhance economic ties.

9. Modi described Bhutan as a natural choice for his first visit abroad as the two countries shared a "special relationship.

10. The fact that the Prime Minister chose Bhutan as his first foreign destination assumes significance since China has lately intensified efforts to woo it and establish full- fledged diplomatic ties with Thimphu.

Cooperation on crime

Operation All Clear: 2003

Sukrita Baruah, Nov 7, 2023: The Indian Express

Bhutan King’s India visit: Recalling Operation All Clear, which Bhutan launched against Assam’s insurgent groups

The hill kingdom undertook its first military operation in 140 years against militants under 'Operation All Clear' in 2003. Here is why.

The visit was also significant as it came after a tense period, in which the peaceful relationship between the neighbours became complicated in the 1990s when insurgent groups from Assam began setting up camps and operating out of forests in southeast Bhutan.

This was also noted by Dawa Penjor, General Secretary of the Bhutan India Friendship Association, in his note on the King’s visit stating that “the strong bond between Bhutan and Assam faced a challenging test from various insurgent groups along their shared border for nearly two decades.”

As a result, the hill kingdom was pushed to undertake its first military operation in 140 years to flush out the militants from its territory. ‘Operation All Clear’ was launched by the Royal Bhutan Army on December 15, 2003, and dealt a crippling blow to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO), which had set up camps in Bhutanese territory.

Why were Indian insurgent groups present in Bhutan?

In the 1990s, the Indian military and Assam police launched successive crackdowns against militant groups in Assam, putting them under pressure. At the same time, Bangladesh ceased to be a place of refuge as well, with the pro-India Awami League government under Sheikh Hasina coming to power in 1996 and taking action against them.

As a consequence, these groups set up camps in southeast Bhutan, particularly in the Samdrup Jongkhar district that borders Assam. According to the Bhutan government, at the time of its crackdown, there were 13 ULFA camps, 12 NDFB camps and 5 KLO camps in its territory (this organisation was mostly active in West Bengal).

What was Bhutan’s initial approach towards these militant groups?

While Bhutan ignored and did not engage with the Indian insurgents in its territories in the initial years, pressure began to mount on it as it began to strain diplomatic relationships with India – its neighbour, biggest funder and trade partner.

Bhutan had entered into dialogue with these groups in 1998 but still been reluctant to take coercive action to drive them out, a major factor in which was the small size and inexperience of its military. However, the talks did not yield any outcome for the government despite five rounds of talks with the ULFA and three rounds with the NDFB. The smallest of the three groups, the KLO snubbed the efforts at dialogue.

What finally led to the crackdown?

On the day of its crackdown, the Royal Bhutan Government laid out all the factors that pushed it to military action against the insurgents, underlining that their presence had become a “direct threat to Bhutan’s sovereignty and national security.”

“Of particular concern, are the misperceptions surrounding their presence and the implications on the excellent bilateral relations with India, which is of the highest importance for the Royal Government and the Bhutanese people,” the statement by the government said.

It stated that apart from this, the groups’ presence had taken a toll on development and economic activities in Bhutan, including the stalling of the Dungsam Cement Project, as well as the closure of education institutes in vulnerable areas.

“Innocent peoples in Assam, West Bengal, as well as in Bhutan, have been victims of threats, coercion, and extortion. Unprovoked attacks by militants against Bhutanese nationals inside the country, as well as while travelling through Assam have resulted in tragic loss of innocent lives. It has become unsafe for Bhutanese to travel and transport goods through the traditional and more convenient routes in India,” it has stated.

Political Science professor and researcher Arijit Mazumdar wrote in his paper ‘Bhutan’s Military Action Against Indian Insurgents’ that another major factor had been fears in Bhutan. It was felt that the insurgent groups would supply arms to the ethnic Nepalese Lhotshampas, who were subjected to repressive policies by the royal government, fuelling an ethnic insurgency in southern Bhutan.

In the Bhutan Royal Assembly session of June-August 2003, a resolution was taken that the government would make one last attempt to persuade the militants to leave the country, failing which the Royal Bhutan Army would be responsible for removing them. In talks over October and November led by Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, ULFA and NDFB leaders were told that Bhutan “cannot tolerate their presence any longer” while the KLO continued to snub talks.

What was the result of the operation?

On 15 December, the 6000-member Royal Bhutan Army launched simultaneous attacks on the camps of all three outfits with logistical and medical assistance from the Indian Army, which also sealed the Indo-Bhutan border to prevent militants from escaping into India.

In January 2004, India’s Chief of Army Staff General N.C. Vij claimed that at least 650 insurgents from the three groups had been either killed or captured. Among the top leaders captured included ULFA idealogue and founding member Bhimkanta Buragohain, ULFA publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, KLO crack squad chief Tom Adhikary, KLO second in command Milton Burman and NDFB publicity chief B. Erakdao.

Economic cooperation

12th 5-year plan: ₹4,500 cr grant

Doklam fresh in mind, India promises ₹4,500cr to Bhutan, December 29, 2018: The Times of India

Aid To Help Neighbour’s 5-Year Plan

PM Narendra Modi announced that India would contribute Rs 4,500 crore to Bhutan’s12th five-year economic plan after a meeting with visiting Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering, a significant outreach with an important neighbour who occupies a strategic geography between India and China.

A transitional Trade Support Facility of Rs 400 crore over a period of five years was also announced to strengthen bilateral trade and economic linkages.

Modi assured Tshering, who took over as PM last month, that India would continue to play the role of a reliable friend and partner for Bhutan. The meeting was aimed to cement ties with the new government and though India’s relations with China have improved, the shadow of the military standoff at Doklam in 2017 only underlined the importance of stable relations with Bhutan.

The new five-year plan of Bhutan began this year and will end in 2022. Underscoring the importance of hydropower projects in India’s relations with Bhutan, Modi said work on the Mangdechhu project would soon be completed. Mangdechhu is a 720 mw hydroelectric project on the Mangdechhu river in central Bhutan. The river projects will serve to increase the already close economic linkages with the Himalayan nation.

Tshering, who is said to be contemplating plans to diversify Bhutan’s economy, acknowledged that hydropower had been the main source of revenue for Bhutan. “We are very, very happy that the government of India is fully committed to support whatever negotiations that are going on for determining tariff for power from Mangdechhu project as well as to make Sankosh (hydropower) project happen as soon as possible,” he said.

The two leaders reiterated their commitment to jointly develop 10,000mw of hydropower generating capacity in Bhutan. Modi thanked Tshering for deciding to introduce in Bhutan the Indian RuPay card which is a debit and credit card payment network. Tshering said Modi had promised to help Bhutanese traders hit by GST implementation in India.

Hydel partnership

2018: Mangdechhu power project

India’s Bhutan hydel project ready, December 4, 2018: The Hindu

Cooperation in Mangdechhu power project a sign of strong ties: Vijay Gokhale

India is expected to commission a major hydropower project in Bhutan, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.

Delivering a speech on India-Bhutan relations, the top diplomat said cooperation in the hydropower sector was a sign of strength of the time-tested ties between the two countries.

“This year we hope to commission the flagship 750-megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project, hopefully this month itself, and we are also working on a number of ongoing and planned projects that will ensure our relationship in this sector continues in the future,” said the Foreign Secretary assuring Bhutan of India’s commitment to work with the Himalayan country.

Adapting to the times

The Mangdechhu project was bagged by the Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) and it will be implemented on a bilateral basis. The Foreign Secretary said India-Bhutan ties had adapted to the changing times. Bhutan’s latest democratic election had firmed up its position as a leading democracy in the region, he said.

Commissioning of the project will mark a highpoint in bilateral ties in the coming months.

The official said India and Bhutan were now interacting at the level of parliamentarians and civil society participants, while also maintaining close dialogue at the official levels.

Special ties

The Foreign Minister of Bhutan Tandi Dorji told The Hindu on Tuesday that Bhutan would maintain its special relationship with India in the future.

The Foreign Secretary’s comments came at the end of a conference organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) that was organised to mark half century of diplomatic ties between Delhi and Thimphu.

Territorial issues

2020: Pangda village

November 20, 2020: The Times of India

Bhutan Ambassador refutes claim of China setting up village inside Bhutanese territory

NEW DELHI: Bhutan has rejected the Chinese state media report claiming that the Chinese authorities have set up a village inside Bhutanese territory.

"There is no Chinese village inside Bhutan," Major General Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutanese Ambassador to India, told ANI. This comes after Shen Shiwei, CGTN News producer, had tweeted, "Now, we have permanent residents living in the newly established Pangda village. It's along the valley where 35 km south to Yadong county."

Later the tweet was removed.

The Pangda village lies 2 kilometres within Bhutanese territory.

Tourists from India

2020: have to pay sustainable development fee

February 4, 2020: The Times of India

Bhutan makes Indians pay 'sustainable development fee’

THIMPHU (BHUTAN): Bhutan is introducing a "sustainable development fee" for regional tourists following a spike in Indian visitors that has sparked worries for the unique Himalayan kingdom's cherished ecology.

The majority of tourists already cough up $250 per day in high season — including meals, transport, and accommodation — to visit the country of 750,000 people famous for putting happiness before economic growth and being carbon negative.

But this "high value, low impact" strategy has come under strain in recent years because of a sharp rise in visitors from its giant neighbour India — who are exempt from the levy.

On Monday Bhutan's lower house of parliament passed legislation meaning that visitors from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives have to pay a fee of 1,200 ngultrums ($16.85) per day from July.

In 2018, Bhutan received 200,000 visitors from countries in the region, up nearly 10 percent from 2017, sparking fears that it was becoming just another mass tourism destination.

India's superstar cricket captain Virat Kohli did much to publicise Bhutan when he posted on social media photos from a recent trip with his wife, Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.

While India's foremost celebrity couple, nicknamed collectively as "Virushka", behaved themselves, others have not.

Last October an Indian biker caused outrage by clambering on top of a monument to pose for a photograph.

However, the chairman of Bhutan's hotel and restaurants association, Sonam Wangchuk, voiced fears that newly built budget hotels accommodating the surge in Indian visitors would now go bust.

"We have shared our concerns and sentiments to the government. But despite that they still went ahead with the decision," Wangchuk told AFP.

Tandi Dorji, Bhutan's foreign minister and Tourism Council head, said that the government would consider fiscal incentives if the new fee affected the hotel sector.


2000- 2023

Shyamlal Yadav, Nov 7, 2023: The Indian Express

In answer to a decades-old demand, the mineral-rich state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in November 2000. In the two decades since, the state’s politics has centered largely around its chief ministers: Ajit Jogi, Raman Singh, and Bhupesh Baghel.

The present-day Chhattisgarh had been a part of the old Madhya Pradesh as it was prior to November 1, 1956. Earlier called Central Province and Berar (with capital at Nagpur), the state was renamed after the Constitution of India came into effect.

Later, following recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission under Fazl Ali, the new Madhya Pradesh was created by merging the present-day Chhattisgarh, Vindhya Pradesh, Bhopal, almost the entire Madhya Bharat, and a tehsil named Sironj of the Kota district of Rajasthan. The Marathi-speaking districts surrounding Nagpur and Amravati were annexed to Bombay state.

As the literal meaning of Chhattisgarh is thirty-six forts, some believe it consists of three dozen erstwhile princely states, mostly tribals during Kalchuri dynasty.

The creation of Chhattisgarh

From 1956 to 2000, Madhya Pradesh had 14 Chief Ministers. Only four of these were from the Chhattisgarh region — father-son duo Ravi Shankar Shukla-Shyama Charan Shukla, Motilal Vora, and Naresh Chandra Singh. Singh was the only one from a tribal community, and he sat on the CM chair for only 12 days in 1969. Demands for a new state of Chhattisgarh, and also Gondwana, were being raised for decades.

In the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP promised in its manifesto that it would “carve out Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand), Vananchal (now Jharkhand), Vidarbha and Chhattisgarh as separate States.” After the party came to power, Chhattisgarh was created with 16 districts, 11 Lok Sabha and five Rajya Sabha seats, and 90 Assembly seats. Nearly one-third of its population consisted of tribals. When it was first created, 34 of the 90 Assembly seats were reserved for tribals. After delimitation, 29 of the 90 seats are reserved for them and 10 for Scheduled Castes. The state now has 33 districts.

Coronation of Ajit Jogi

As the new state was being created, many were active to take credit for it. Prominent among them was Vidya Charan Shukla, son of first Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Ravishankar Shukla. In May 1999, Vidya Charan had formed the Chhattisgarh Rajya Sangharsh Morcha.

When MP was divided, the CM of the undivided state was Digvijaya Singh. Out of the 90 seats that had gone to the new state, Congress had 48 MLAs. After the new state was born, in a meeting of the Congress legislature party in Raipur, Ajit Jogi was elected its leader.

On November 9, 2000, Jogi was sworn in as the first CM of Chhattisgarh. An IAS officer who had served as collector of districts like Raipur, Indore and Sidhi, Jogi had joined the Congress in 1986 on the advice of then MP CM Arjun Singh. After becoming the CM, he engineered a defection in the BJP and managed to make 13 of its MLAs join Congress.

In the first Assembly polls held in 2003, Congress was a divided lot. Vidya Charan Shukla could not adjust with Jogi and had revolted to join the Sharad Pawar-headed NCP. In the polls, while NCP could win only one seat, the 7.02 per cent votes it secured reduced Congress to 37 seats. The BJP got the majority with 50 seats.

Jogi could not digest this defeat, and news broke that he was trying to buy MLAs to get a majority. This caused huge embarrassment to the party leadership. Though Jogi was active in politics till almost his death in May 2020 — sometimes with Congress, sometimes his own party Janta Congress Chhattisgarh — he could never regain the clout he once enjoyed.

Raman Singh’s era from 2003

While the first BJP president of the new state was prominent OBC leader Tarachand Sahu, after the Jogi-engineered defection, the party top bosses were unhappy with him and then Minister of State at the Centre Raman Singh was sent to replace Sahu. The 2003 Assembly polls were won under the leadership of Raman Singh and he was sworn in as new CM.

In the 2008 polls, his scheme of free distribution of rice helped him. Also, though Vidya Charan Shukla had returned to Congress (after briefly joining the BJP as well), in the 2008 polls, Jogi’s camp within Congress allegedly managed to defeat many of his opponent Congress leaders, and BJP retained its tally of 50 seats.

Naxal attack of 2013

While statehood for Chhattisgarh had generated hope of all-round development, what also saw a rise in the state was Naxalism.

On May 25, 2013, a few months before state polls, Maoists ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in Bastar district. Twenty-seven people were killed, including state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma and ex-MLA Uday Mudaliyar. Vidya Charan was injured and died later.

The BJP won the subsequent polls with 49 seats, and the Congress secured 39. In the meantime, Raman Singh established his son in politics, who won the Lok Sabha poll in 2014 from Rajnandgaon.

By the 2018 Assembly polls, the tide was turning against Raman Singh. He had been discredited among BJP workers for advancing his family, had many enemies within the state and central BJP leadership, and was also facing anti-incumbency after a 15-year run.

Return of Congress, arrival of Bhupesh Baghel

After losing three consecutive Assembly polls and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Congress was now preparing well. After Mahendra Karma was killed, the party first appointed Charan Das Mahant as the state chief, and then, within a few months, the OBC leader Bhupesh Baghel was appointed in his place.

For the 2018 polls, Congress devised a new strategy, putting in place new leaders. The BJP’s struggles gave it more steam, and it won the polls with a historic majority of 68 seats. The BJP managed to win only 15 seats.

Baghel was sworn in as the Chief Minister on December 17, 2018. His promises for farm-loan waiver and best prices for crops to farmers worked in his favour.

Now the state is again heading towards polls. The results will be crucial for the careers of both Baghel and Singh.

See also

Bhutan: Foreign policy

Bhutan- China relations

Bhutan- India relations

Bhutan: Government

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