New Delhi: After a dramatic change of chief minister in Punjab following a persistent tussle in the Congress’ state unit, the party now may be hard-pressed to handle alleged infighting in Chhattisgarh too.
Chhattisgarh Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo, believed to be vying for the chief minister’s chair, rushed to Delhi Monday, weeks after he and CM Bhupesh Baghel met former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to discuss a potential change of guard in the state.
At the heart of the perceived tussle in Chhattisgarh is speculation that, after the Congress’ win in the state in 2018, the party promised the CM’s chair to Singh Deo in the second half of the party’s tenure. Baghel was to serve as CM in the first half, leaders in the Singh Deo camp had told ThePrint earlier. This tenure ended in June.
Singh Deo told the media at the airport that he is in the national capital for a “personal visit”, and that “all the issues have been resolved”.
However, there is still no final word from the high command about a possible change of guard in Chhattisgarh despite a series of meetings held in the last few months.
In August, after Singh Deo and Baghel held a 3-hour meeting with Rahul, the latter hinted that there will be no rotation in the post of the CM.
Baghel had also said that he had invited Rahul Gandhi to visit Chhattisgarh to “inspect the various projects and works” being implemented by the state government, and that the latter has accepted the invitation. Nearly a month on, Rahul is yet to make that visit.
Given the fact that Deo is a popular figure in Chhattisgarh politics, he may try to continue negotiating with the party leadership for the post of the CM.
“If a person plays in a team then doesn’t he think about becoming the captain? Everyone thinks about that, but the question is not about his thoughts, it’s about his capabilities. The high command takes the decision,” Deo had told the media last month ahead of the meeting with Rahul.
‘Situation can’t be compared to Punjab’
The Congress came to office in Chhattisgarh in 2018, winning 68 of the state’s 90 assembly seats.
There were three leaders aspiring to be CM at the time — Baghel, Singh Deo, and Tamradhwaj Sahu. While there was never any official declaration by the Congress leadership, the Singh Deo camp claims there was an arrangement that Baghel would be given the CM post for the first half, and Singh Deo for the second half.
Both leaders play important roles in the party. While Baghel is a popular OBC face, Deo led much of the Congress’ campaign in 2018.
In August, ahead of Baghel and Singh Deo’s meeting with the party brass, as many as 55 MLAs known to be close to the CM came to Delhi in an apparent show of strength for him.
“It became clear that the majority of the MLAs back Baghel, so the situation cannot be compared to Punjab,” a Congress leader from Chhattisgarh said.
In Punjab, the majority of the party’s MLAs were said to be opposed to Captain Amarinder Singh’s continuation as CM.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)