The matter of replacing the Chhattisgarh chief minister was not discussed during a meeting between Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and the party’s top leadership in the state, PL Punia said on Tuesday, ANI reported.
Punia, Congress’ state in-charge, was also present at the meeting along with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Health Minister TS Singh Deo.
The meeting took place amid reports of an ongoing tussle between Baghel and Deo. The health minister is reportedly upset with the party leadership for not fulfilling its promise of rotating the chief minister’s post after two-and-a-half years of coming to power in the state.
Baghel was sworn in as the state’s chief minister in December 2018 and he completed half of his tenure in June this year. Deo, responsible for the Congress’s victory in the 2018 Assembly polls, was a contender for the chief minister’s post. However, ahead of the meeting, several party leaders, including Punia, had denied that there was any agreement that the party would rotate the top post between Baghel and Deo.
Punia added that both Baghel and Deo have agreed to go by the party’s decision, NDTV reported. Deo also told reporters that he would agree to decisions taken by the Congress central leadership.
“The high command instructed me to take the oath [as chief minister], so I took the oath,” Baghel had said in July. “When they say someone else will be the chief minister, then it will be so. Such agreements happen in a coalition government, but the Congress has three-fourth majority in Chhattisgarh”.
Congress leaders have played down the infighting and said the meeting with Gandhi was fixed “sometime ago” to review the work of the state government, reported The Hindu.
Before leaving for Delhi on Monday evening, Baghel said: “After a long time, I am going to Delhi…The meeting is with Rahul Gandhi. There will also be a meeting with AICC [All India Congress Committee] General Secretary KC Venugopal and the state’s in charge PL Punia.”
Deo said he will accept any responsibility the party high command gives him. “I cannot say if anything will change in the leadership after two-and-a-half years in the state,” he added, according to News18. “Discussions keep going on.”
The rift between Baghel and Deo came out in the open in July when party MLA Brihaspat Singh accused the health minister of trying to kill him following an attack on his convoy. Singh claimed that Deo attacked his convoy because he had praised Baghel and said that he would retain the chief minister’s post for the next 25 years. Later, Singh, accompanied by 20 Congress MLAs, had also demanded Deo’s removal from the Cabinet.
In response, Deo had said that he will not attend the Assembly proceedings until the Congress government clears the allegations levelled against him.
The crisis in Chhattisgarh came days after the Congress sorted out a squabble between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his former Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu. On July 18, the All India Congress Committee elevated Sidhu as state party chief along with four working presidents.
The Congress is also trying to resolve factionalism in Rajasthan, amid a standoff between Congress MLAs from the rival camps of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot.