Chhattisgarh Congress Crisis: Baghel Meets Gandhi, Says All Issues Discussed
"I have told my leader whatever I had to," CM Bhupesh Baghel said after the meeting with Rahul Gandhi.
The Quint DAILY
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Amid speculations of friction within the Chhattisgarh Congress, state Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who is purportedly at loggerheads with the state's Health Minister TS Singh Deo, on Friday, 27 August, met party leader Rahul Gandhi.
Speaking to the media after his meeting, Baghel said that all political as well state administrative issues had been discussed and added that he had invited Gandhi to visit Chhattisgarh next week. The invitation, he said, was accepted by the Congress leader, according to news agency ANI.
When asked about the CM-rotation formula, Baghel said that Chhattisgarh in-charge PL Punia had already clarified this, adding that he himself did not need to say anything more.
"I have told my leader whatever I had to," Baghel said, according to ANI.
According to NDTV, Baghel also said that he enjoys the support of all 70 Congress MLAs in Chhattisgarh. Shortly after the meeting with Gandhi, Baghel also met with all the Congress MLAs from his state who had gathered at the AICC headquarters in Delhi.
No Show of Strength, Says Punia
Meanwhile, Punia said that CM Baghel wanted to brief Rahul Gandhi personally.
Speaking about the Chhattisgarh MLAs who had arrived in Delhi on Thursday, 26 August, Punia said that he and Congress leader KC Venugopal met them.
"Had they wanted to display a show of strength, they would have gone to Rahul Gandhi. They did nothing of that sort, they had not come here for that. It has nothing to do with CM's visit," Punia said, according to ANI.
On Thursday, a large number of the party's MLAs including three state ministers, arrived in Delhi. The party members met with Chhattisgarh Congress incharge PL Punia at his residence in the national capital, news agency ANI reported.
"We've been serving people of Chhattisgarh, under the leadership of CM Bhupesh Baghel. We will speak with the High Command about the situation here," Chhattisgarh Congress MLA Devendra Yadav was quoted as saying by ANI.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Punia further added that "media reports of tension between CM Bhupesh Baghel and senior minister TS Singh Deo are absolutely false".
"They share good relations. They meet each other normally. Both of them respect each other a lot. Reports in the media are baseless," he said.
On Tuesday, Baghel and Deo had held a three hour-long meeting with Gandhi, to discuss the issue of rotating chief ministership in Chattisgarh, which would facilitate the assumption of Baghel's position by Deo, as the former has completed half of the tenure of five years.
Congress had secured power in December 2018, defeating the 15-year BJP rule in Chhattisgarh with a three-fourth majority in the 90-member state legislative Assembly.
The then Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Bhupesh Baghel and the erstwhile Leader of the Opposition TS Singh Deo led the fight against the BJP, which could win only 15 seats.
However, after Baghel became the chief minister, speculations about a power-sharing formula for rotation of the chief minister’s post after a span of two and a half year began.
Congress in-charge Punia had informed ANI in July that a switch of chief ministers is not a set formula.
He was quoted as saying, "There is no such understanding or formula. There is no point in such a formula as the Congress party has a three-fourth majority in Chhattisgarh. Such an agreement happens in coalition governments. Chhattisgarh is running with a three-fourth majority government."
The infighting increased in the Congress by 17 June when Baghel completed two and half years as chief minister, while leades tried to politically isolate Deo. For instance, MLA Brihaspati Singh alleged that Deo had masterminded an attack on him. Though Deo denied the allegations and demanded an inquiry, the standoff within the party intensified.
The High Command Takes the Decision: TS Singh Deo
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Deo had hinted that a decision on the matter was pending. “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,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.
“He (Bhupesh Baghel) might be the CM for 50 years or 10 years or 2 years. This is not fixed,” the health minister added, saying that “there is rivalry even among siblings.”
Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Minister Amarjeet Bhagat was quoted as saying, "Only when the team is not doing well, it is required to change the captain of the team. Bhupesh Baghel is doing very well in the state."
(With inputs from ANI)
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