Amid speculations over the possibility of a leadership change in Chhattisgarh, about 20 Congress MLAs known to be close to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel are camped in Delhi in what is being seen by many as a show of strength.
However, Baghel, in Raipur, said the visit by the Congress MLAs to Delhi should not be seen through the prism of politics.
When asked on Saturday about the MLAs’ trip to Delhi, the chief minister said there is no ban on the legislators going somewhere and they are independent.
“It is not a political movement… They will visit and return,” he added.
The remarks came amid speculations over the possibility of a leadership change in Chhattisgarh where cabinet minister T S Singhdeo is vying for the chief minister post.
MLA Brihaspat Singh, who is camped in Delhi, reiterated on Saturday that there is no question of change of leadership in the state and the government will complete its term of five years under the leadership of Baghel.
He also said the MLAs present in Delhi paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi by visiting Rajghat on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.
“We are here to meet AICC in charge of Chhattisgarh P L Punia and are waiting for him. We want to convey that Rahul Gandhi should extend the duration of his proposed tour to the state so that all MLAs can benefit from it,” said Singh, the party MLA from the Ramanujganj seat of the state.
When contacted, Punia had said on Thursday that he was in Lucknow and had no information about the MLAs being in Delhi as none of them had contacted him.
According to sources, so far about 20 MLAs have reached Delhi and some more legislators are expected to come to the national capital.
Meanwhile, the Congress appointed Baghel as a senior observer for next year’s Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Baghel supporters see this as a positive sign.
A legislator supporting Baghel said, “Chhattisgarh is among the leading states of the country in terms of development under the leadership of our chief minister. This is the reason why the party high command has full faith in him.”
In his remarks in Raipur, Baghel asserted that his state can never become Punjab, and said the two states bear only one similarity — that of having numbers in their names.
The Congress has been in turmoil in Punjab after Amarinder Singh quit as the chief minister and the party’s state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu tendered his resignation from his post ahead of the crucial assembly elections in the state early next year.
“Chhattisgarh will always remain Chhattisgarh. It cannot become Punjab. The two states have only one similarity that both have numbers in their names,” Baghel told reporters at the helipad in Raipur when asked that the BJP has equated Chhattisgarh and Punjab with the turmoil in the ruling Congress.
“Punjab is the land of ‘punj’ (five) ‘aab’ (water). It is made up of five rivers. Similarly, Chhattisgarh has derived its name from ‘chhattis’ (thirty-six) ‘garh’ (fort). No other states have numbers in their names. There is no other similarity between the two states,” he added.
The demand for a change of guard reared its head in Chhattisgarh after Baghel completed two-and-a-half years as chief minister in June 2021. The camp of cabinet minister T S Singhdeo has claimed that the high command in 2018 had agreed to hand over the post to him after the government completed half its term.
The Congress high command summoned both Baghel and Singhdeo to Delhi in August to resolve the feud.
It appeared that Baghel had managed to avert, for the time being, a leadership change when he told reporters in Raipur recently that Rahul Gandhi had agreed to visit the state “on his invitation”, and those talking about rotating the CM’s post were promoting political instability.
However, there has been constant speculation over the matter.