‘The state is now swiftly emerging as a political hotspot for the Congress leadership’.

 

New Delhi: In the midst of the intra-party dispute in Rajasthan and Punjab, Chhattisgarh, too, is now swiftly emerging as a political hotspot requiring urgent attention of the Congress leadership.

With the completion of 2.5 years of the Congress government in Chhattisgarh, the possibility of the state witnessing a change in the CM has gained traction with top state leaders not ruling out present Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel being replaced by present health minister T.S. Singh Deo.

According to Raipur-based party leaders, when the party had won in the state in December 2018, as agreement was reached between the then party president Rahul Gandhi and two CM chair claimants, Bhupesh Baghel and Singh Deo, under which the five-year tenure was to be divided between the two, with Baghel ruling the state in the first half. He took the oath of CM on 17 December 2018 and his 2.5 years tenure ended on 17 June last month.

In the 90-seat Chhattisgarh Assembly, the Congress has 70 MLAs, the BJP 14, the Amit Jogi-led Janata Congress four with two seats being won by the BSP. The 68-year-old Deo, while speaking to The Sunday Guardian, neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of a change of CM in the state.

“There was no such official commitment (regarding Baghel leaving the chair for Deo after 2.5 years). There are many issues and talks that take place within closed doors, so all those are in the realm of possibilities,” Deo told The Sunday Guardian from Shimla where he had had gone to take part in the last rites of senior Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, who was also his close relative.

Among others, former party president Rahul Gandhi, too, was present in Shimla for the cremation.

Before going to Shimla, Deo had spent time in Delhi. On 15 December 2018, more than 96 hours after the result of the Assembly election was declared, the party leadership was able to arrive at an agreement that Baghel would be the Chief Minister.

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team,” Gandhi had tweeted along with a photograph with senior Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh, including Baghel and Deo.

A close associate of Deo, responding to a query by The Sunday Guardian on whether Deo had taken up the issue of his “rightful claim” to the Chief Minister’s chair with the party president Sonia Gandhi, the associate said that the issue was very much in the mind of the party high command.

“Those things are always possible in politics; the status quo would not be there for a lifetime. The leadership is aware of these things. They keep appraising such developments in every state,” the associate told The Sunday Guardian.

Party in-charge P.L. Punia, however, has denied the existence of a “2.5-year formula” and termed it as bogus.