Ghar Wapsi Trumps Gobar Economy: How Vishnu Deo Sai Turned the Tables on Bhupesh Baghel

Brought up within the RSS and renowned for organizing ceremonies for \’reverse conversion,\’ where tribal Christians return to Hinduism, the remarkable journey of 60-year-old tribal leader Vishnu Deo Sai, transitioning from the position of \’removed state chief of the BJP\’ prior to the elections to becoming Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh post-polls, is a compelling tale. Throughout the election campaign, he carried the weight of several \’exes\’ in his resume – ex-Panch, ex-MLA, ex-MP, ex-Union Minister, and ex-state chief – all of which proved worthwhile as he now proudly assumes the prestigious title of Chief Minister.

The local community, his party colleagues, and senior bureaucrats describe his trajectory as \’Gobar se aage Ghar Wapsi\’ (Beyond Cow Dung, Homecoming). While the outgoing chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel advocated for the use of cow dung in various products, creating what was termed the \’Gobar Economy,\’ Sai opposed this policy, condemning it as a \’filter\’ for misappropriating public funds.

In a previous interview, Sai exposed alleged corrupt practices in the Bhagel government\’s \’Gobar economy\’ and \’Gauthan project\’ (cow sheds).

Affiliated with the Sangh and closely associated with RSS affiliates Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and Gayatri Parivar, Sai prioritized the \’ghar wapsi\’ or \’reverse conversion\’ of tribals who had converted to Christianity in the tribal regions of Surguja and Bastar. He actively supported the RSS-affiliated \’Dharma Jagaran Mancha,\’ which regularly organized conversion ceremonies. Sai, a tribal leader, spearheaded the \’de-listing\’ movement, urging the government to \’de-list\’ all converted tribals.

In Surguja and Bastar, with 26 tribal-dominated seats, the BJP secured 14 seats in Surguja and eight of the 12 seats in Bastar. In 2018, the Congress dominated both regions, winning all 26 tribal-dominated seats. Sai played a pivotal role in ensuring the BJP\’s control over all 14 seats in Surguja.

As the Chief Minister-designate, Sai contested from the Kunkuri Assembly constituency in Surguja against sitting Congress MLA UD Minj, an influential tribal leader supporting tribal conversions. Kunkuri, home to Asia\’s second-largest church, the Kunkuri Cathedral, has been a focal point for religious conversion, as per local accounts.

Sai, strongly backed by the RSS and its affiliates, including Banavasi Kalyan Ashram, Gayatri Parivar, and Dharma Jagaran Mancha, waged a campaign against Christian missionaries in the region.

Prabal Pratap Singh Judev, the son of Dilip Singh Judev, a tribal \’king\’ and vocal critic of missionaries, disclosed Sai\’s connection with his father. Dilip Singh Judev, a former union minister, two-term Lok Sabha MP, and three-term Rajya Sabha MP, mentored Sai and influenced him to lead the \’ghar wapsi\’ of tribals. Prabal Pratap highlighted his father\’s prophecy that Sai would become the chief minister, a prophecy fulfilled today.

Sources within the RSS and BJP revealed that senior RSS functionaries advocated for Sai over the return of ex-chief minister Raman Singh. Raman Singh proposed two names – Sai and Lata Usendi, a woman tribal leader. The party chose Sai, aligning with the RSS\’s focus on the crucial tribal region of Surguja to prevent tribal conversion to Christianity. Sai, described as a deeply rooted and religious individual, played a pivotal role in facilitating the Sangh\’s political objectives.

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