Ready to step down if Congress high-command asks me: Chhattisgarh CM on sharing the post

Bhupesh Baghel was speaking to reporters at the Raipur airport after returning from Delhi where he met AICC leaders Priyanka Gandhi and PL Punia.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel (Photo | PTI)
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel (Photo | PTI)

RAIPUR: Amid speculations over the purported two-and-a-half-year power-sharing formula in the ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Sunday reiterated that if the party high command asks, he would vacate the post.

Baghel was speaking to reporters at the Raipur airport after returning from Delhi where he met AICC leaders Priyanka Gandhi and PL Punia.

On July 9, Baghel visited Shimla where he paid last respects to former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

He returned here this afternoon via Delhi.

"I was in Himachal Pradesh to pay tribute to Virbhadra Singh ji, After the second wave of COVID-19 broke out (in March end), it was my first visit to Delhi. Today I held a formal meeting with Priyanka ji and Punia ji there," he said.

"A lot of discussions were held with Punia ji over politics in the state, various government programmes and appointments to the posts of corporations and boards," he added.

When told questions are being raised over the purported arrangement for the rotational chief ministership in the state, Baghel said, "You keep asking this question, the reply will be given and every time the answer will be the same. The party high command has given this responsibility, and if the high command orders to vacate, then I will do so."

"Media people ask this question again and again and every time the answer remains the same. Two plus two will always be four. It will neither be more than it nor less than it. Every time you ask I will give the same reply."

The Baghel government completed two-and-a-half years in office last month.

Sharing the CM's post on a rotational basis has been a buzz in Chhattisgarh's political circles after Congress came to power in December 2018 when Baghel and his two senior cabinet colleagues TS Singh Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu were the leading contenders for the CM post.

When Baghel took oath as Chief Minister on December 17, 2018, Deo and Sahu had sworn in as cabinet ministers.

The speculations were rife that consensus was built for the CM's post based on a two-and-a-half-year power-sharing formula between Baghel and Deo.

Meanwhile, Baghel slammed state BJP leaders for calling the ruling Congress a "nikammi" (useless) government over the alleged unavailability of anti-COVID-19 vaccines in the state.

"It is the habit of the BJP to blame others for its mistake. The latest example can be seen in the recent reshuffle in the Union cabinet. Modiji decided to carry out the vaccination drive, impose a lockdown (during the surge of the pandemic) and export vaccines abroad. But when the Centre faced criticism over the vaccination drive, all blame was put on Dr Harsh Wadrhan, who was removed as Union health minister," he said.

No decision taken by the Modi government turned out to be successful, be it the GST, demonetisation, lockdown, or agriculture policy, the CM said.

The Centre has also failed to ensure a smooth supply of fertilisers, he alleged.

"Over one crore shots of vaccines have been administered to people (in all categories) in Chhattisgarh. Now if they do not provide vaccines, how the vaccination drive will be conducted. We cannot administer fake vaccines like it was done in Madhya Pradesh and Gujrat," he said.

"They (Centre) should just supply vaccines to us and if we fail to vaccinate people, then put blame on us. BJP leaders blame and criticise Jawahar Lal Nehru for every issue but they cannot question the incumbent Prime Minister because if they do so it will be considered as 'deshdroh'," he said.

Baghel wondered why state BJP leaders can't question the party brass for not inducting MPs from Chhattisgarh in the recently-expanded Union cabinet.

"Then who is nikamma (useless)?. Those who are sitting in the Centre or those who are here (in Chhattisgarh)," he asked.

Of the total nine BJP MPs in Chhattisgarh, only Renuka Singh is a Minister of State (tribal Affairs) in the Union government.

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