As the suspense over the possibility of change in leadership in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh continues, the political heat appears to be once again escalating in the state after over a dozen Congress MLAs reached Delhi on Wednesday. The political circle in the state was abuzz with speculation that the legislators have gone to express their support to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. However, the MLAs who have reached the national capital said their visit was linked with the proposed tour of former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to the state.
"Around 15-16 party MLAs have reached Delhi and are staying at different places. Rahul ji's visit to Chhattisgarh is proposed. We wanted to convey a request to Rahul ji through our state in-charge P L Punia ji that he should extend a little the duration of his tour so that all the MLAs could get benefit of it," said Brihaspat Singh, the party MLA from Ramanujganj seat of state.
"We have come to Delhi just to make this request and we will speak to Punia sir on Thursday in this regard. Our visit should not be seen in other way," he told PTI over phone from Delhi.
When asked whether their visit was aimed at expressing support to Baghel, Singh said, "Our party has 70 MLAs (in the 90-member state assembly), of whom 60 legislators had last time told everything to Punia ji. When there is blessing of the high command, support of the MLAs and the chief minister is working well, then no such issue (of leadership change) exists."
He also denied the alleged tussle between Baghel and state health minister T S Singh Deo and said that both the leaders had recently shared the stage and exchanged sweets. He also said that they respect each other.
"The situation in Chhattisgarh is not similar to Punjab. The high command of any party would not put the entire government at stake just to make one leader happy," he said without naming anyone.
Singh, considered as close to Baghel, was embroiled in a controversy in July this year when he alleged that there was a threat to his life from Singh Deo. However, the MLA, who hails from Singh Deo's home turf Sarguja, later withdrew the claim.
The demand for a change of guard reared its head after Baghel completed two and a half years as Chief Minister in June 2021. Singh Deo camp claimed that the high command in 2018 had agreed to hand over the post to him after the government completed half its term.
Congress in-charge of the state PL Punia has time and again denied that any such deal was struck in 2018 when the party came to power by dislodging the BJP.
The Congress high command summoned both Baghel and Singh Deo to Delhi in August to resolve the feud. It appeared that Baghel had won this round when he told reporters upon return that party leader Rahul Gandhi had agreed to visit the state 'on his invitation', and those talking about rotating the CM's post were promoting political instability.
As many as 54 out of 70 Congress MLAs had visited Delhi separately when Baghel was in the national capital, in an apparent show of strength on his side. While both Baghel and Singh Deo have desisted from saying anything about the leadership issue since then, the feud has not abated.