Will there be a change of guard in Chhattisgarh?

Will there be a change of guard in Chhattisgarh? Congress firefights power tussle between Baghel, Deo

In June, the Baghel government completed two and half years and it has since come under increasing pressure from Singh Deo

Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel (L) and TS Singh Deo. Credit: Facebook/tssinghdeosurgujaa

A day after firefighting internal turmoil in the Punjab Congress, the party high command is now faced with resolving a serious crisis in another party-ruled state, Chhattisgarh.

CM Bhuphesh Baghel is likely to meet Gandhis on Friday for the second time within three days as the party high command, after firefighting internal turmoil in Punjab, focussed its attention resolving the serious crisis in another party-ruled state, Chhattisgarh.

While Baghel goes for a show of strength, a sulking T S Singh Deo has dug the heels amid indications that the party high command is keen to see its commitment of rotational Chief Ministership being fulfilled.

While there has been no public announcement of the rotational Chief Ministership formulae, party insiders say such a promise was indeed made in 2018 when the AICC leadership was discussing making one of the three Chattisgarh leaders — Bhupesh Bhagel, T S Singh Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu — as Chief Minister.

While Sahu was a front runner initially, Baghel and Singh Deo had come together to stake the claim on the chair. Rotational Chief Minister was an idea floated then.

Read | CM Bhupesh Baghel should clarify who is trying to destabilise Chhattisgarh government: BJP

In June, the Baghel government completed two and half years and it has since come under increasing pressure from Singh Deo. On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi had a three-hour-long meeting with Baghel and Singh Deo to resolve the power tussle. Baghel is a powerful OBC leader and is now a key voice in the party, and one the high command is not keen on antagonising as Chhattisgarh is one of the only three party-ruled states after Punjab and Rajasthan.

In Punjab, which goes to polls eight months from now, the party's efforts to resolve the tussle between Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu came a cropper this week with the Sidhu camp openly coming out against the CM and seeking his ouster.

A rattled Congress later had to declare that Captain is the leader in Punjab, but making Sidhu PCC chief did not mean the party was handed over to him. In Rajasthan as well, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has so far had an upper hand in the running feud with former Deputy Chief Minister and former PCC chief Sachin Pilot. Divisions run deep in both states.

Chhattisgarh, too, seems to be going the same way.

"I have said in the past that when the high command orders, I will quit the post. No one should doubt it. Those who are talking about two and a half years, they are trying to bring political instability and they will never succeed," Baghel had said on Wednesday after arriving at the airport in Raipur, where he was welcomed to a large cheering crowd with supporting MLAs — which was seen as a show of strength by the Chief Minister in wake of the visible power tussle in the state.

Also Read | Will quit Chhattisgarh CM post moment Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi ask me to do so: Bhupesh Baghel

State Food Minister Amarjeet Bhagat tweeted, “Those who want to destabilise the government should understand that this is the government of farmers, tribals and common people."

The BJP seized the opportunity to take a dig at this power tussle.  

"Honourable Chief Minister (Chhattisgarh Congress), the post of 'Chief Minister' is not of an individual but it is an institution. Who is trying to destabilise the government of three-fourths majority. 'Delhi Darbar' or someone else..? You should clarify.” “Your (CM's) statement will affect the development of Chhattisgarh,” BJP MLA Ajay Chandrakar tweeted on Thursday.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Dharamlal Kaushik said, "the CM said that discussions were held about development (during meetings with senior leaders in Delhi), it seems the fight for the chair is not over yet. It is just the beginning, this fight is going to be long”.

Officially, the Congress has been downplaying the row. AICC in-charge Chhattisgarh P L Punia, who had earlier dismissed the talk of rotational Chief Ministership, on Tuesday, after Rahul Gandhi's meetings with Baghel and Singh Deo, said they discussed development issues and not leadership change.

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