Baghel wants Chhattisgarh Cong chief replaced
Simmering tensions between Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and state Congress president Mohan Markam have come to a boil. Sources said the chief minister has asked the party’s central leadership to replace Markam with a leader who can work more closely with him to prepare the party for the upcoming assembly elections. Markam, a young tribal MLA from a constituency not far from the chief minister’s, has fallen out with the latter.
Baghel suspects the PCC chief has joined hands with his bete noire, T S Singh Deo, who had lost a closely-contested race for the chief ministership. There were reports that the party high command had promised Singh Deo the second half of the CM’s tenure. There has, however, been no official confirmation on this. Singh Deo and Baghel have since had a running feud. With the party appearing set to win a second term, largely due to Baghel’s popularity, the chief minister does not want to take any chances by having a PCC chief who may create trouble for him in the election.
Baghel’s demand has put the Congress leadership in a quandary. The party cannot axe a tribal from the post on the eve of the election. The state has a large tribal population. It has, therefore, asked Baghel first to create a vacancy for Markam in the Cabinet. A hunt has simultaneously started for another tribal leader of equal standing as a substitute.
PM fields Rajnath Singh for Muslim outreach
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has had back-to-back meetings with Muslim intellectuals, clergy and common citizens over the last week. Sources said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to reach out to the community to correct any misgivings about his government. Rajnath met a group of Muslims comprising a former chief justice, chiefs of prominent dargahs and heads of leading Muslim institutions and organisations. He then visited the prominent Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, in Lucknow. Singh also acted on the complaints of Muslim shop owners targeted by right-wing mobs in Uttarkashi.
He spoke to Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and facilitated his meeting with Muslim leaders to discuss and resolve the issue. Sources said that in the meetings between the defence minister and the leaders of the minority community, issues such as the proposed uniform civil code were discussed. Meanwhile, a two-year-old study by the Pew Research Centre has reappeared on social media. According to this widely-shared report, 98% of Indian Muslims say they are free to practice their religion in India. Two per cent said they were “not too free” to practice their religion, with almost no one answering, “not at all free”. Rajnath’s outreach and the Pew report’s resurfacing are seen as the government’s attempts to counter a campaign in the US to portray it as anti-minority, especially on the eve of the Prime Minister’s state visit.