Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel returns to Chhattisgarh to show of strength

The remark, however, came even as speculation over a possible change of guard in the state grew on Wednesday evening, particularly since Singh Deo has remained in Delhi for more meetings with the party top brass
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel. (File photo)
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel. (File photo)
Updated on Aug 26, 2021 01:21 PM IST
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Returning to Chhattisgarh to a show of strength at the Raipur airport after meetings with senior Congress leaders in Delhi on a reported two-and-a-half year power-sharing agreement with state health minister TS Singh Deo, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said that those talking of such a formula “would never succeed”.

The remark, however, came even as speculation over a possible change of guard in the state grew on Wednesday evening, particularly since Singh Deo has remained in Delhi for more meetings with the party top brass.

Baghel was welcomed at the airport by a loud raucous crowd of supporters that included eight MLAs and two ministers, in signs of battle lines being increasingly drawn within the government.

On Tuesday, Baghel and Singh Deo met Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the presence of general secretary in charge of the state PL Punia and general secretary(administration) KC Venugopal at Gandhi’s residence for over three hours, attempting to thrash out a solution.

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The impasse stems from a reported power-sharing arrangement between Baghel and Singh Deo in the aftermath of the Congress win in the state in December 2018. While the two-and-a-half year marked passed on June 17, there have been several bookmarks in the past two months of the conflict, eventually leading to the meeting on Tuesday.

Party functionaries in Delhi and Raipur said there were indications that the chief minister could step down, with the CM saying that he will leave the post when the party high command tells him to.

“As far as the incumbent state government is concerned, Sonia ji (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul ji ( Rahul Gandhi) entrusted responsibility to a farmer like me. I am happy about it. This government is of farmers, tribals, labourers and 2.80 crore people of the state. The government is functioning well… Those who are propagating the two-and-a-half-year formula and are trying to bring political instability and they will never succeed,” Baghel said.

People close to him said indicated that another meeting in Delhi was likely in the next few days.

Landing at Raipur earlier on Wednesday, Baghel was greeted by around 400 party workers, who shouted slogans such as “Chhattisgarh ada hua hai, Bhupesh ke saath khada hua hai (Chhattisgarh is adamant, is standing by Bhupesh) that spoke of the power struggle within the party.

Among the supporters waiting for Baghel at Raipur airport were eight MLAs from different districts and ministers Amarjeet Bhagat and Ravindra Choubey. They declined to comment.

Earlier in the morning, CM Baghel, who was camping at Chhattisgarh Bhawan in New Delhi, met Venugopal at around 11.30am for 25 minutes. After Baghel’s meeting with Venugopal, sources claimed that a meeting between Singh Deo and Venugopal also took place, which lasted for a similar period of time.

Functionaries close to Singh Deo did not specify when he will return to the state capital.

One legislator who asked not to be named said that the uncertainty of who will lead Chhattisgarh was becoming a tricky situation for them to navigate, with many hedging their bets. “This is a testing time for the MLAs of Chhattisgarh, who are trapped between the politics of Singh Deo and Baghel. For us taking sides will be very difficult which could cause further distrust and infighting,” the MLA said.

Political commentators in the state said that the uncertainty on the issue of leadership was a poor message for a party that won a huge majority.

“In Chhattisgarh, Congress has won huge majority and the uncertainty on leadership issue is not good for it. The statement issued and language used by all stake holders in this regard lacks clarity. The sooner it is resolved the better in the interest of the party,” said Sudeip Shrivastva , a political commentator based in Chhattisgarh.

The Bharatiya Janata Party ruled the state for 15 years until 2018, with former chief minister Raman Singh in power for three terms.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021