Both the Congress stalwarts stated that their respective tours would focus on the assessment of the government’s work, but analysts believe it is a pre-election campaign with a clear visible rift between Baghel and Singhdeo.
Both Singhdeo and Baghel have reportedly been in contention for the chief ministerial post when the former registered his claim for the top post citing the alleged agreement of power-sharing reached between him and Baghel in the presence of Rahul Gandhi after the 2018 Assembly elections.
Baghel started his tour from the Surguja division (the area of Singhdeo's political prominence) on Wednesday.
A press release by the public relations department of Chhattisgarh said that the chief minister will visit all 90 constituencies in his tour.
"The CM will randomly visit any three villages of every constituency … will meet residents, public representatives and social groups and will assess the implementation of welfare schemes," read the press note.
On the same day, TS Singhdeo too embarked on a statewide tour.
Talking to The Quint, TS Singhdeo said, "We are discharging our duties; it should not be seen as anything else. I too have to discharge my duties, assess how health facilities are being provided to the people and what all we can improve."
Singhdeo also said that the talks of rift and leadership change will remain irrespective of whether he tours or not.
However, experts believe that Singhdeo is eyeing the 2023 elections as his chance to hold the office of chief minister.
Govt Says Stocktaking Exercise, Experts Claim Pre-season Election Preparation
Talking to The Quint, Ashok Tomar, a political analyst from Chhattisgarh, said that for Baghel, this is a chance to strengthen his relationship with the rural Chhattisgarh, while for Singhdeo it is a battle to remain at the centre of state politics.
"He (Singhdeo) is a big leader no doubt and he wants to show that he is as popular in Bastar as the CM and that he isn't just limited to Surguja," Tomar said.
Along with being an acclaimed leader and one at the helm of politics in the state, his tour proves that he is not going to leave Congress anytime soon, experts believe.
Attempt To Reconnect With People
Experts also believe that Baghel is trying to reconnect with the people and cover up for the time lost due to COVID-19.
The Congress won 68 seats out of 90 Assembly seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party got 15 seats in 2018 state Assembly elections. The JCC (J) bagged five seats while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had won two seats.
The Congress' tally later rose to 71 with the party winning all by-polls since 2018.
"It's an attempt to reconnect with the public. It has been happening in Chhattisgarh since the time Digvijaya Singh was CM of undivided MP. Baghel knows he has only two summers left before elections and that the pandemic had essentially snipped his cord with the public to a large extent. This is a pre-season preparation for the 2023 elections," Shashank Sharma, another political commentator from the state, said.
Party strategists also say that this tour would give Baghel the opportunity to meet ground-level Congress workers who have been feeling sidelined over the last two years.
Congress leaders and experts alike maintain that the party has peaked in its performance in 2018 and it would be difficult for them to retain the same number of seats.
"Our best performance has come. It would be tough to win all 71 seats or more than that again. However, we are very sure that we will get a clear majority and will form the government," said a party leader, who requested not to be named.