Following discord in the Congress’s Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab units, the party has also seen simmering trouble in recent days in Chhattisgarh where it is in power, following reports of a change at the top based on a rumoured “2.5-year formula".
Several social media posts in the past few weeks have suggested that the Congress could opt for a new chief minister on the completion of half of the Bhupesh Baghel government’s five-year term on June 17 to keep the flock together.
TS Singh Deo, the health minister, was the speculators’ favourite to lead the party in the tribal-dominated state for the remaining tenure of the government.
The party top brass through state incharge PL Punia, however, strongly denied the reports as baseless. Punia, who returned to New Delhi after a two-day visit to Raipur on Tuesday, spoke to the media and said that there was no “2.5-year formula" and any such reports were bogus. It’s an example of how fake news is planted these days, said the Congress central observer.
The man at the centre of the controversy, TS Singh Deo, echoed these views. “I told Punia that I am very much in Raipur and how these baseless reports are being circulated by a section of media," said the minister. “It’s all fake and baseless."
Some regional news channels had on Tuesday reported that 50 MLAs had a meeting with Deo and later he left for New Delhi with four of the Baghel government ministers.
Political circles soon were abuzz with reports of a possible change of guard in Chhattisgarh and the Congress top leadership had to swiftly intervene. Police later in the evening also booked a couple of news channels for running fake news.
Congress communications incharge in the state Shailesh Nitin Trivedi on Wednesday told News18.com that senior leaders had already rubbished the claims and so there was nothing left to say on the matter. He accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of propagating these rumours, saying it had nothing much left to do.
BJP spokesperson Sachidanand Upasane though alleged that there was a certain rift in the Congress camp, which is why the party’s central leadership sent PL Punia and he made Deo offer a public statement before the media that was benign. Deo’s supporters are still posting on social media that he is the next leader of the party in Chhattisgarh, claimed Upasane.
He also alleged that Baghel carries more weight as he is acting as the “ATM" for the party top brass.
When chief minister Bhupesh Baghel was approached by the media on the issue, he reportedly said, “What is the matter about June 17 and 2.5 years?”
The alleged rift in the Congress party was reportedly caused back in 2018 when after a thumping win in the assembly polls, the party had shortlisted four leaders— TS Singh Deo, Bhupesh Baghel, Tamrdhwaj Sahu and Charandas Mahant— as potential CM candidates, with Deo seen as the frontrunner.
Rahul Gandhi, who was the Congress president at the time, called all four to New Delhi and eventually chose Baghel for the top job in Chhattisgarh.
Political observers say that the BJP is keen on cashing in on the resentment of Deo but given the numbers in the assembly, it has not been able to stoke the discontent within the Congress camp to the optimum level in the past two and a half years.