RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Friday left for Delhi, for the second time this week, to meet the party’s central leadership amid escalating tussle between him and state Health Minister T S Singh Deo and talks of change in leadership in the state.

Sources in the state Congress said that several party MLAs and ministers, who are close to Baghel, already reached Delhi on Thursday, while many legislators, ministers and senior leaders went to the national capital this morning.

Talking to reporters at the airport, Baghel said he was going to Delhi as he had been called by the party high command.

“(AICC general secretary organisation) K C Venupgal ji messaged me yesterday that I have to meet Rahul Gandhi ji today.As per his direction, I am going there and apart from this, I don’t have any other information,” he said.

When asked that several Congress MLAs and ministers also gone to Delhi, he said, “Why can’t they go to meet their leaders? I got a call therefore I am going and they were going uninvited. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, nobody could visit Delhi for a long time and now they have gone to meet the leaders.”

However, Baghel did not respond to Singh Deo’s remark made in Delhi that, “If a person plays in a team then doesn’t he think about becoming the captain?” State Agriculture Minister Ravindra Chaubey and Forest and Climate Change Minister Mohammad Akbar, were also seen entering the airport before Baghel.

The chief minister had returned to Raipur from Delhi on Wednesday evening, a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi held meetings with him and minister T S Singh Deo in a bid to resolve the tussle between the two senior leaders.

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On Thursday, Congress MLA Devendra Yadav, before leaving for Delhi had said they would discuss the situation in the state, where the party came to power in December 2018 after ending the BJP’s 15-year-long rule, with the high command.

State Congress chief Mohan Markam, however, had denied reports that he and MLAs have been summoned to Delhi by the party high command.

After Rahul Gandhi’s meetings with Baghel and Singh Deo in Delhi on Tuesday, AICC state in-charge P L Punia had told reporters that their talks centred around development issues and not leadership change.

After arriving here from Delhi, Baghel had said on Wednesday that those talking about “two and a half years” (power sharing formula) were trying to bring political instability in the state and they would never succeed in it.

When the Congress picked Baghel for the top post following the party’s victory in the 2018 Assembly polls, there was speculation that Singh Deo, another contender in the fray, would be allowed to take over as the CM after two-and-a-half years.

Baghel has completed two-and-a-half years in office as CM in June 2021.