Amid Rajasthan Congress crisis, T S Singh Deo says justice should be done in Chhattisgarh

AMID A full-blown crisis in Rajasthan where a Congress Legislature Party meeting to set in motion the process of finding a successor to Ashok Gehlot as the Chief Minister could not take place, senior Chhattisgarh Congress leader and state Cabinet Minister T S Singh Deo said he was still hopeful of a change of guard in his state although he will be completely subordinate to the decision of the high command.

In an interview to The Indian Express, Singh Deo said, “One always feels that justice should be done.”

Like in Rajasthan, a power tussle between Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Deo had been raging in Chhattisgarh for some years. It had come to a head in July when Deo relinquished the charge of the crucial Panchayat and Rural Development portfolios, citing among other reasons the non-sanction of funds under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

The tussle between Baghel and Deo centered around an unwritten formula of rotational chief ministership which was agreed upon between the two in December 2018 in the presence of Rahul Gandhi when the party came to power in the state.

The party leadership had in August last year signalled it could be thinking of a leadership change in Chhattisgarh but status quo prevailed after a show of strength by Baghel camp MLAs. As many as 51 Congress MLAs – a figure contested by the Deo camp – had come to Delhi then to mount pressure on the central leadership not to press for a change in the state.

Deo spoke to the newspaper about the show of strength by the Chhattisgarh Congress MLAs in Delhi, the rotational chief ministership formula and his state of mind.

Asked about the much talked about formula of rotational chief ministership, Deo said he “can’t really divulge this publicly because there are some issues discussed behind closed doors. So, I have to respect the sanctity of a privileged interaction.” Baghel had always denied such an informal agreement was arrived at.

“That apart, it has certainly been in circulation. So that two-and-a-half years have elapsed. We are nearing four years… three years nine months. So, 1.25 years so to say, are left for the next election… But whatever was the decision of the high command I would certainly respect it always, and I am sure in Chhattisgarh all the MLAs will respect it no matter what the decision is,” Deo said.

Asked whether there was a sense of disappointment that the change of guard did not happen in Chhattisgarh, he said “Since it is a decision of the high command it is difficult for me to say anything on that. But certainly, one always feels that justice should be done.”

So, is he hopeful? “Certainly. Certainly, in the sense that everything is fluid and a flowing process, and the constant is the decision of the high command, direction of the high command… So, when I am in the party, I am completely, let us say, subordinate to the decision of the high command.”

On the show of strength by Baghel camp MLAs in Delhi – perhaps similar to the muscle flexing done by Gehlot in Jaipur on Sunday, Deo said: “Even then you will remember that neither did the high command give them time to meet nor did the AICC in-charge give them time to meet.”

“So that was an indication in itself and I don’t think the MLAs in Chhattisgarh either breached that protocol or will breach it in the future. From the perspective of Chhattisgarh, I am sure that whenever there is any direction from the high command the MLAs will respect it,” he said.

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