Power tussle in Chhattisgarh: Quiet at top but tension simmers below

The demand of change of guard reared its head after Baghel completed two and a half years as chief minister in June 2021
Last Updated : 24 September 2021, 14:38 IST
Last Updated : 24 September 2021, 14:38 IST

Follow Us :


The tussle for power between Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and health minister TS Singh Deo appears to have quietened at the top, but the feud is very much visible at the lower level in the ruling Congress.

The recent change in leadership in Congress-ruled Punjab has added to the uncertainty, political observers here believe. On Thursday, a local unit of the Congress in Bilaspur demanded expulsion of a party MLA after he protested against the registration of a police case against another local leader, a supporter of Singh Deo.

The demand of change of guard reared its head after Baghel completed two and a half years as chief minister in June 2021. The Singh Deo camp claimed that the high command in 2018 had agreed to hand over the post to him after the government completed half its term.

Congress in-charge of the state P L Punia has time and again denied that any such deal was struck in 2018 when the party came to power by dislodging the BJP. In July, Congress MLA Brahaspat Singh alleged that there was a threat to his life from Singh Deo.

The MLA, who hails from Singh Deo's home turf Sarguja, later withdrew the claim. The Congress high command summoned both Baghel and Singh Deo to Delhi in August to resolve the feud.

It appeared that Baghel had won this round when he told reporters upon return that party leader Rahul Gandhi had agreed to visit the state `on his invitation', and those talking about rotating the CM's post were promoting political instability.

As many as 54 out of 70 Congress MLAs had visited Delhi separately when Baghel was in the national capital, in an apparent show of strength on his side. While both Baghel and Singh Deo have desisted from saying anything about the leadership issue since then, the feud has not abated.

On Tuesday, Bilaspur police registered a case against Pankaj Singh, a former secretary of state Congress and a supporter of Singh Deo, for allegedly assaulting an employee of a government hospital. The next day, Congress MLA Shailesh Pandey, another staunch supporter of Singh Deo, reached the police station with his supporters and lodged a protest against the action.

Without naming anyone, Pandey alleged that the action was taken at the behest of senior leaders. The issue did not end there as on Thursday a local unit of the party in Bilaspur district recommended Pandey's expulsion for "facilitating anti-party activities".

Bilaspur Urban Congress Committee chief Pramod Nayak said it had sent a proposal to state Congress chief Mohan Markam seeking to expel Pandey from the party for six years. Nayak was accompanied at the press conference by state Congress vice president Atal Shrivastav, who is known to be close to chief minister Baghel.

“Till the party high command does not clear the air over the leadership issue, workers would continue to pay the price for the tussle between the two senior leaders,” said R Krishna Das, a senior journalist and political analyst.

The recent change in leadership in Punjab has created a sense of uncertainty among Congress cadres in the state, he told PTI. Caste equations were apparently an important factor which propelled Baghel to the top post in 2018.

The chief minister belongs to the Kurmi caste, an influential OBC group. In Chhattisgarh, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) account for around 45 per cent of over 2.55 crore population. Singh Deo belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Surguja.

Baghel is likely to visit Delhi in the first week of October to meet Rahul Gandhi to `finalize the itinerary' of the latter's proposed visit to the state, sources said.

Watch the latest DH Videos here:

Published 24 September 2021, 13:37 IST

Follow us on :

Follow Us