24 Aug 2021: RaGa meets Baghel, Deo; 'no discussion on Chhattisgarh CM change'
After Punjab, another crisis brews for the Indian National Congress in Chhattisgarh where the party was said to have a stable government. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Tuesday met state Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and his Cabinet colleague, TS Singh Deo, in Delhi amid talks of a change in the state leadership. However, Congress's Chhattisgarh in-charge PL Punia said no such discussion took place.
Meeting: Baghel, Deo agree to comply with party's wishes after meeting
Reportedly, during the three-hour meeting with Gandhi, both Baghel and Deo agreed to comply with the party high command's wishes. Baghel said he will be CM as long as the party wishes, Punia told NDTV. Sources told the publication Deo will settle for nothing less than the CM's post. However, Punia told ANI there was no discussion on a change of leadership in Chhattisgarh.
Details: What is the reason of the rift?
Among other issues, the main contention between Bhupesh Baghel and Singh Deo was the issue of rotational Chief Ministership. Supporters of Singh Deo claim that after Congress came to power in Chhattisgarh, a two-and-a-half-year rotational CM formula was negotiated. Singh Deo was apparently promised the last two-and-a-half-year of the present government. Notably, the Baghel government completed two-and-a-half years in office in June.
Baghel: Baghel denied agreeing to any such formula
However, CM Baghel has denied any talk of such a rotational Chief Ministership. Baghel had argued that CM rotation is a feature of coalition governments, but Congress holds a three-fourths majority in Chhattisgarh. He had downplayed the meeting with Gandhi and did not reveal the agenda. He had said that he will also be meeting with AICC General Secretary KC Venugopal and Punia.
Sources: Deo may resign from Cabinet if high-command doesn't agree
Ahead of the meeting, Singh Deo had said that he will accept whatever decision the leadership takes. However, he may not continue as a minister in the Baghel Cabinet if the status quo prevails and may resign from the party altogether, The Indian Express reported, citing sources. He has reportedly set a deadline of two months to resolve the issue.
Fact: 'Punia is entrusted with this, he will convey our message'
A day before the meeting, Singh Deo had told PTI that he had conveyed his message to PL Punia. "Punia ji is the person entrusted with this. He is in touch with the high command. It's for him to convey."
Concerns: Hard choice for Congress: Reports
Both Baghel and Singh Deo have their reputation within the party. As CM, Baghel has built a reputation through his performance and clean image. He has also delivered on his promises. Hence, many in the party feel a change-of-guard would be "disastrous," given that crucial elections are due in the state. Similarly, Deo, too, has an image of a "good honest leader."
Background: Baghel and Deo at loggerhead for last few months
The rift between Baghel and Deo came out in public when the latter staged a walkout in the Assembly, demanding the government to deny an allegation leveled against him by party MLA Brihaspati Singh. Singh had accused Deo of orchestrating an attack on him for giving statements in Baghel's favor. Deo—who holds the Health portfolio—had also complained about the rapid change of Health Secretaries.
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