The recent developments in Punjab and Chhattisgarh keep displaying the party’s dirty linen in public
Bhupesh Baghel has been summoned back to Delhi on Friday, after just having returned from there on Wednesday. The purpose of both Delhi trips is to try and resolve the power struggle taking place between Chief Minister Baghel and Chhattisgarh Health Minister, Tribhuvaneshwar Saran Singh Deo.
Singh Deo served as the Leader of the Opposition in Chhattisgarh till the Congress came to power in 2018. He was a strong contender for the post of Chief Minister, but lost out to Baghel who was the then leader of the Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee (CPCC). Singh Deo claims that a deal had been brokered by the Congress top brass that stated both Baghel and Singh Deo would take turns at Chief Ministership, by serving two and a half years each. Baghel’s two and a half years were completed in June, yet he shows no sign of vacating his chair.
Both men are long serving politicians who command their own factions. Baghel is a 5-time MP from the Patan constituency, who rose up the ranks of the Indian Youth Congress. Singh Deo is royalty, the titular Maharaja of Surguja, who has represented his family’s erstwhile capital Ambikapur in the Chhattisgarh assembly from 2008.
That both were vying for power isn’t a surprise, but the way it has come under the public gaze is. Recently, Singh Deo was accused by an MLA in the Baghel camp of orchestrating an attack on him for having praised the CM. Singh Deo staged a walkout from the assembly in protest, because the party did not opt to clear his name. Both contenders shared statements with the press painting their own claims as just. Now, the constant drama of Delhi trips and press conferences serves to show the Congress as rife with infighting.
Of course, Chhattisgarh is just one of the states to have come to a flashpoint. The other is Punjab, where the power struggles between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and recently appointed Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) President, Navjot Singh Sidhu, are also out in the public. Thursday saw a camp of Sidhu supporters go to the Punjab Congress in-charge, Harish Singh Rawat, in Dehradun to plead for Singh’s removal. Rawat however announced that Singh would continue to be the face of the Congress in Punjab for the 2022 elections.
This is just one of the incidents that have seen both factions trade barbs in the public domain, and generally lend themselves to controversy. In July, before Sidhu’s appointment as PPCC President, the newspapers were awash with tales of secret meetings, missing invites, potential snubs and attempted coups. Thursday’s announcement may have calmed speculation, however it is no guarantee that more instability will not take place before the Punjab polls in 2022.
Both these cases show a tumultuousness in the Congress’s way of functioning, that too in states where they handily defeated the BJP/NDA to form governments. Madhya Pradesh was lost to infighting and Rajasthan was almost surrendered as well. Factionalism seems to follow the Congress everywhere they get even a hint of power, and it has already proved to be their Achilles’s heel. It seems at the moment, both the well-wishers and the wolves have their eyes peeled.