After a meeting spanning over three hours between Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi, there was still no clarity on the leadership question in the state.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also attended the meeting briefly, according to NDTV.
However, neither Baghel nor state Congress in-charge PL Punia made any clear announcement on the way forward.
Amid a power tussle between Baghel and Deo, reports have suggested that the Congress central leadership had promised a two-and-half years’ stint to both of them after the party won the Assembly elections in 2018. The Congress, however, denied making any such arrangement.
After Friday’s meeting, Baghel told reporters that he had “political as well state administrative discussions” with Rahul Gandhi, ANI reported. “In the end, I requested Rahul Gandhi to visit Chhattisgarh,” he added. “He gladly accepted the invitation, he will be there next week.”
This was the second time in three days that Baghel met Gandhi. On Tuesday, even Deo met the Congress MP and later said “if a person plays in a team, then he can aspire to be the captain too”.
The health minister’s supporters insist that the rotational chief ministership deal was agreed upon, but Baghel had earlier this week said such power-sharing can exist only in a coalition government.
Meanwhile, Punia on Friday admitted for the first time that there was a crisis within the state unit of the party, reported NDTV. “There is an issue of leadership, which we are addressing,” he said.
Some 35 Congress MLAs considered close to Baghel are also in Delhi in what seems to be a show of strength by the chief minister, according to NDTV. Among them are three ministers and 20 more MLAs are expected to be in Delhi on Friday.
“We have come to talk to our leaders,” state minister Amarjeet Bhagat, who is also in Delhi, said. “Our government is doing very well under Bhupesh Baghel’s leadership. We only want to tell the leadership to keep blessing us.”
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.