'The Congress didn't win elections only on soft Hindutva.'
The Congress shattered Bharatiya Janata Party leader Dr Raman Singh's dream of a consecutive fourth term as Chhattisgarh chief minister.
The Congress staged a comeback in the heartland state after being in the Opposition for 15 years.
"The result of the Chhattisgarh assembly election will have its effects on the Hindi belt during the 2019 election," Bhupesh Baghel, president of the Congress in Chhattisgarh and one of the top contenders to become chief minister following this remarkable win, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
The Congress has secured a huge victory in Chhattisgarh. How did you make it possible?
The Congress worked as a team and fought this election with team spirit.
Whoever suffered atrocities at Raman Singh's hands, we fought for them.
Be it Adivasis, farmers, women, the unemployed or businessmen.
We fought for their rights and ensured our victory. And the credit goes to our party because we fought this election as one unit.
Did you ever feel you will secure such a majority?
We knew we would reach 60 seats, but now the figure has gone beyond that. Exit polls too were not showing the figures that we have finally got.
I am thankful to Rahulji who gave us direction to win this election.
There are allegations that the Congress played the soft Hindutva card and therefore, you won.
The Congress didn't win elections only on soft Hindutva.
We raised local issues and also national issues like demonetisation and the troublesome GST.
We also highlighted issues like the Rafale deal. Rahulji raised the issue of 'Chowkidar chor hai' here.
This defeat is that of Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and Raman Singh.
The Congress vote percentage has jumped by nearly 10 per cent, which is significant. Do you feel the people are trying to put their faith back in the Congress?
People have put their faith in the Congress leadership. And our party workers have toiled hard to regain that faith of the people.
Will these election results have an effect on the 2019 general election?
This was the semi-finals, which the Congress has won. The final is now in 2019.
And the result of the Chhattisgarh assembly election will have its effects on the Hindi belt during the 2019 election.
Would you say Modi's popularity has waned?
Modi's face had disappeared from BJP posters. In the Chhattisgarh elections, Raman Singh was a bigger name than Narendra Modi.
If you had come to Chhattisgarh, you would have found that Modi's photo was small in size and Raman Singh's posters were huge compared to him.