New Delhi: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel seems to have got a respite, with the decision on change of guard in the state being deferred till the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. However, the scene will be much clearer during Congress former president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the state. He is likely to go to Chhattisgarh for a day next week. According to sources, the high command does not want any controversy in Chhattisgarh ahead of Uttar Pradesh polls. Moreover, Baghel’s pressure politics also worked in his favour. Senior Congress leader T.S. Singh Deo had staked his claim on chief minister’s post citing the formula of rotation after completion of first half of the five-year term of the party government in Chhattisgarh. After this, a political tug of war began in the state, which also reached Delhi. In fact, two contenders for CM post were there in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh when the 2018 Assembly polls happened. Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot were contenders for the top job in Rajasthan, whereas Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath were claiming the chief minister post in MP. Similarly, Bhupesh Baghel and T.S. Singh Deo were vying for CM’s chair in Chhattisgarh.
Given this intense fighting, Rahul Gandhi made the formula of rotation of CM after two-and-a-half years. While framing this formula, Rahul Gandhi might have thought that the BJP will not return to power in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and that the UPA will stage a comeback. He was under the impression that the BJP won’t be able to repeat 2014 performance in these states. The impression of 190-200 seats was given to Rahul Gandhi by his strategists. But the results disappointed Congress. Even Rahul Gandhi lost his seat in UP. Congress suffered massive defeat in Hindi belt states, including Rajasthan and MP. Rahul Gandhi was made to resign by strategists so that they could not be blamed for all this. Even after resigning, Rahul Gandhi kept controlling the party, which resulted in massive groupism in the Congress. Rahul Gandhi could not thereafter fulfill his promise for the states, with the result that Congress lost its government in MP. Despite a severe crisis, Gehlot managed to save his government in Rajasthan.
Now, Chhattisgarh is in turmoil after T.S. Singh Deo reminded Rahul Gandhi of his formula of rotation. More than half of the total Congress MLAs were supporting Singh Deo in 2018. But Rahul Gandhi gave Baghel the chance to lead the government. Baghel continued to woo legislators who were earlier supporters of Singh Deo. When Singh Deo raised the issue of rotational formula, Baghel reached Delhi with his 50 MLAs to create pressure on the high command. Sources say Baghel spent a lot of money for the party in the Assam election. He is said to have assured the high command that he will bear the expenses during the UP Assembly elections. Baghel also developed close rapport with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in these years. His assurance has come as a breather for Congress which is facing a financial crisis while state elections are approaching fast. So, the change of guard in Chhattisgarh has been put in cold storage due to elections. However, supporters of Singh Deo believe that Rahul Gandhi will fulfill his promise during Chhattisgarh visit. The party is trying to impress upon Singh Deo that the decision in change may happen after UP polls and that next Chhattisgarh elections would be fought under his leadership. Whatever the final decision, Rahul Gandhi’s team has created a problem in Chhattisgarh as well.