Congress faces yet another battle, this time in Chhattisgarh
The Congress firefight has moved to another party-ruled state, Chhattisgarh, after weeks of slow burn in Punjab and Rajasthan. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s minister TS Singh Deo wants the top post, insisting on rotational chief ministership.
Baghel and the state Health Minister TS Singh Deo are due to meet Rahul Gandhi in Delhi as the infighting threatens to reach a flash point.
Ever since the Baghel government completed two-and-a-half years in office in June, Deo and his supporters have been pressing for change. The dissident group claims that rotational chief ministership was the deal when the party came to power in 2018.
In a striking similarity with the Punjab assembly, where it has an overwhelming majority in the 117-member House (77 seats), the party in the 90-member Chhattisgarh assembly has as many as 72 seats. Despite such a huge majority, the Congress is struggling to keep its house in order.
Sources close to Deo have told the media that he will not settle for anything less than the CM’s chair. Reports have gone on to say that if his demand is not met, he will quit the government and maybe even the Congress. “Deo won’t join the BJP but can’t work under Baghel anymore,” said NDTV quoting a source. “The situation is at a breaking point,” said another source close to Deo.
The two sides have so far avoided airing their views in public. When Baghel was asked if Deo would be present during his meeting with Rahul Gandhi, he said: “I have information of meeting with Rahul ji only.”
The Congress has faced tough situations dealing with chief ministerial contenders, including Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu. Both were taken as ministers when Baghel took over. Rahul had tweeted a photo with the leaders in a show of unity with the message: “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy is, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team. — Reid Hoffman.”
That picture means little – Rahul Gandhi at the time had tweeted pictures with Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Madhya Pradesh) and with Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot (Rajasthan).