Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has been summoned again by the Congress’s central leadership and he is expected to be in Delhi on Friday amidst the continuing power struggle between him and State Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo. Party sources did not rule out a change of guard in the State, though Mr. Baghel is resisting it.
Ahead of Mr. Baghel's meeting with former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, several ministers and MLAs arrived in Delhi and are camping in the capital. More are expected by Friday. As per sources, a show of strength is expected in Delhi with MLAs supporting Mr Baghel could be paraded at the party headquarters in the Capital.
The Baghel camp is against change of guard and argue that replacing an OBC Chief Minister will cost the Congress in a State that has predominantly OBC population. They also argue that majority of the MLAs are with the incumbent CM.
On Tuesday, Mr. Baghel and Mr. Deo met former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to resolve the issue. Mr. Deo has invoked the assurance made by Mr. Gandhi when he was leading the party in 2018 that he (Mr. Deo) will be handed over the reins of the State halfway through the government tenure. Following the meeting, party’s State in charge P.L. Punia had told reporters that the leadership change issue was not discussed, indicating Mr. Baghel will continue.
The Congress has 68 MLAs in the 90 member Assembly and its central leadership is said to be assessing the risk of effecting a leadership change. Mr. Gandhi is reportedly eager that the mid- course change of guard agreed upon by both leaders must be honoured. With the party’s position numerically very strong in the Assembly, the party high command is confident that a rebellion by either Mr. Deo or Mr. Baghel can be reined in.
Mr. Baghel returned to Chhattisgarh on Wednesday to a rousing welcome at the airport by his supporters and loyalist MLAs. All along Thursday, more than 30 MLAs paid him a visit.
Deo stays back in Delhi
Mr. Deo, on the other hand, continued to stay in Delhi. Sources close to him said he was told to remain in the Capital for further meetings. On Wednesday, he met party general secretary K.C. Venugopal, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of arriving at a compromise formula.
Mr. Deo said, “If a person plays in a team, then he can aspire to be the captain too. It’s not about his thoughts or aspirations. It’s about his capabilities and it is for the high command to take a decision.”
Mr. Venugopal has a tough job on his hands, with both sides refusing to cede space. Sources said it was suggested that except for the Chief Minister’s post, Mr. Deo could be given other concessions, including admitting his loyalists in the Cabinet and weeding out those against him. He was also offered the Deputy Chief Minister’s post, but he is not too keen to take it up. On the other hand, Mr. Baghel also remains adamant on not changing the composition of his Cabinet.