RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Thursday sought to play down the visit of a group of Congress MLAs to Delhi, saying the trip should not be seen through political prism as talks about a possible change in leadership in the state refuse to fizzle out.
Baghel also termed as unfortunate, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s remarks raising questions over the party’s functioning.
Over a dozen ruling party MLAs, considered close to Baghel, flew to the national capital on Wednesday, adding to the speculation over a possible leadership change as a part of purported power-sharing formula in the Congress government.
However, the MLAs who have reached Delhi had said their visit was linked to the proposed tour of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to the state, where the party came to power in 2018 after 15 years in opposition.
Asked about their visit, Baghel told reporters here, “Tell me one thing – can’t legislators go anywhere. Every step should not be seen as politics. Anybody can go anywhere. Even you (media persons) tour with your friends and it doesn’t mean every time the purpose is getting news.”
Similarly, if anyone has gone (to Delhi) it should not be seen through political prism, said the Congress CM.
Asked about the possibility of the MLAs meeting AICC in-charge for Chhattisgarh P L Punia, the chief minister said, “They are politicians and will meet politicians? Is Punia ji in Delhi? If Punia ji is not in Delhi so there is no question of meeting him.”
Baghel said Sibal’s comments on the party leadership were unfortunate.
“Kapil Sibal ji is our senior leader, a former Union minister, a senior lawyer and such a statement by him is unfortunate. After Rahul ji resigned as AICC president (in July 2019), everyone (in the party) had accepted Sonia Gandhi ji as the interim president and she is still in the post.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, election (to the post of Congress president) was cancelled. After all this, it is ridiculous to raise such questions,” he said.
Addressing a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday, Sibal had raised questions on the party’s high command in the wake of the events unfolding in Punjab, saying Congress workers did not know who was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president.
Meanwhile, state Health Minister TS Singh Deo, who has been apparently seeking a change in guard, also played down the visit of MLAs to Delhi and said it should not be made an issue.
“We all 70 MLAs can go What is the issue if the MLAs have gone to Delhi. In Uttar Pradesh, some MLAs (of ruling BJP) had gone to Delhi in connection with the Yogi Adityanath government.
“For many days, discussions were held following which their (BJP) high command took a decision and new ministers were inducted and a new system was created (there),” Singh Deo told reporters on Thursday when asked about the development.
“The episode ran for several days in UP. We all heard about it. Then what new thing is happening in Chhattisgarh? I cannot understand,” he added.
The state health minister said, “I have learnt the MLAs are (after Delhi) going to Shimla as tourists. No assembly session is underway in the state and they might have finished tour to their respective constituencies so they must be out for some leisure.”
Congress MLA Brihaspat Singh, who is among the legislators who are in in Delhi, had said on Wednesday that 15 to 16 party MLAs have reached the national capital to meet Punia regarding the proposed tour of Rahul Gandhi in the state.
The schedule of Gandhi’s visit to Chhattisgarh is yet to be finalised, according to party sources here.
Singh, considered close to Baghel, courted controversy in July when he alleged there was a threat to his life from Singh Deo.
However, the MLA, who hails from Singh Deo’s home turf Surguja, later withdrew the claim.
The buzz about a possible change of guard surfaced after Baghel completed two-and-a-half years as chief minister in June 2021.
The Singh Deo camp claimed the high command in 2018 had agreed to hand over the CM’s post to him after the government completed half its term.
The Congress high command summoned both Baghel and Singh Deo to Delhi in August in a bid to resolve the feud.
It appeared that Baghel had won this round when he told reporters upon return that 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 by legislators supporting him.
While both Baghel and Singh Deo have refrained from saying anything about the leadership issue since then, the speculation has not died down.