A day after a clash between Congress leaders during a convention of party workers in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Monday termed the incident as ”unfortunate” and said it could have been averted.
Talking to reporters at the Raipur airport before leaving for Lucknow, Baghel also said the issue of rotating the chief minister’s post should not be raised again and again to disturb the atmosphere in the state.
On Sunday, former Jashpur district Congress president Pawan Agrawal was allegedly heckled and manhandled while he was delivering a speech during the party workers’ convention in Jashpur town. AICC secretary in-charge of the state Saptagiri Ulaka was also present in the event.
Agrawal, considered a supporter of state’s health Minister TS Singh Deo, had said he was allegedly stopped and assaulted by Iftikhar Hasan, a party colleague, and others on the stage during his speech, when he asked why there is a delay in elevating Singh Deo as CM as per the purported power-sharing agreement.
A purported video of Sunday’s incident also went viral on social media.
When asked about it, CM Baghel said, “See, those things which had been clarified by the AICC state in-charge P L Punia sahab, should not be raised again and again to disturb the atmosphere. The incident (referring to Sunday’s clash between party workers in Jashpur) could have been averted. It was unfortunate and it should not have happened.” Briefing about his Lucknow visit, Baghel, who has been made senior observer by the Congress for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls due next year, said there is a two-day programme in the UP capital during which discussions will be held with social organisations and political leaders.
Baghel said he will subsequently visit Himachal Pradesh, where he will address an election rally.
He is among the Congress’s star campaigners for the October 30 bypolls in Himachal Pradesh.
The tussle for power in Chhattisgarh between Baghel and Singh Deo appears to have quietened at the top, but the feud is very much visible at the lower level in the ruling Congress.
Last month, a local unit of the Congress in Bilaspur demanded expulsion of a party MLA after he protested against the registration of a police case against another local leader, a supporter of Singh Deo.
The demand for a change of guard reared its head after Baghel completed two-and-a-half years as chief minister in June 2021. The Singh Deo camp claimed the high command had in 2018 agreed to hand over the post to him after the government completed half its term. However, Congress in-charge of the state P L Punia has time and again denied that any such deal was struck in 2018, when the party came to power in the state by dislodging the BJP.
It appeared that Baghel had won that round when he told reporters in August that senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi agreed to visit the state ‘on his invitation’, and those talking about rotating the CM’s post were promoting political instability.
However, Singh Deo had said the decision over leadership change lies with the party high command.
Several Congress MLAs, considered close to Baghel, have visited Delhi multiple times in the past two months, apparently to express solidarity with the CM. (PTI)