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Baghel, minister Singhdeo to meet Rahul Gandhi today over ‘50-50’ CM tenure row in Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh Congress has been thrown into turmoil over an informal deal in which Baghel was to serve as CM for two-and-a-half years following which Singhdeo would take over.

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Dehradun: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has summoned Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and state Health Minister T.S. Singhdeo, an aspirant for the top post, to Delhi amid a growing rift between the two. 

The state Congress has been thrown into turmoil over the chief minister’s post as according to an informal internal deal struck following the 2018 assembly elections, Baghel was to serve as chief minister for two-and-a-half years, following which Singhdeo would take over. There are other claimants to the chair, including Ramanujganj MLA Brihaspati Singh. 

Baghel’s two-and-a-half year tenure ended on 17 June.  

Tight-lipped state Congress leaders are unwilling to speak on record but they admitted that the high-level meeting scheduled for Tuesday, which will also see the presence of state in-charge P.L. Punia, has been called to resolve the row.    

“It’s difficult to speak on the outcome of the meeting but focus will be on finding a solution for the two-and-a-half year power sharing arrangement that has snowballed into a big controversy today. It must be buried once for all,” a PCC spokesperson said under condition of anonymity. 

Offices of both the leaders, Baghel and Singhdeo, have confirmed to ThePrint that the meeting is on. 

“The chief minister left for Delhi Monday night to meet Rahul Gandhi and P.L. Punia, along with Singhdeo. I cannot comment on the meeting agenda but it’s open for everyone to understand and guess,” said a source in the CMO. 

Singhdeo’s office shared similar information. “I think this will be the first meeting of Rahul Gandhi with the CM and health minister together after the 2018 state elections,” said an aide of the health minister. “However, the issues to be discussed in the meeting are unknown.” 

Officially, however, the Congress is playing down the row, and the meeting.   

“I don’t have much idea about the Delhi meeting but if there is any, it’s a manifestation of Congress party’s belief in democratic process and transparent communication,” PCC communication division in-charge Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said.

“Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is a leader who believes in the power of communication. He always encourages us to keep the channels of communications open even in disagreements.” 

Also read: ‘Step to avert violence over conversions’: Sukma SP after order to track missionaries sparks row

Tussle two-and-a-half years in the making

The informal deal has caused friction in the Chhattisgarh Congress ever since 17 June, even though Punia and state party leaders had been denying any formal power-sharing agreement between the two leaders. 

Last month, MLA Brihaspati Singh, another contender for the post, alleged that Singhdeo wanted to kill him after an attack on his convoy. He later apologised for the remarks.  

Singhdeo was earlier dragged into another controversy, when the forest department wrote a letter in early July to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), claiming that the health minister was among eight Congress MLAs who wanted the area of the proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve to be reduced. 

Singhdeo sent a rejoinder to the department, saying his name was wrongly included in the letter. 

Aides of the health minister told ThePrint that his opponents in the party wanted to tarnish his image as the power-sharing plan has become a big talking point in the state.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Why BJP fighting 2023 Chhattisgarh polls without CM face is not good news for Raman Singh


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