50-50 formula debate heats up in Chhattisgarh

50-50 formula debate heats up in Chhattisgarh

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Ajaybhan Singh

Raipur, 6 June. Political corridors in Chhattisgarh are abuzz with a raging debate over whether the Congress top brass truly considering the change of guard in Chhattisgarh as part of implementing the much-touted ‘50-50 power formula’ reportedly reached between Bhupesh Baghel and T S Singh Deo in December 2018 when the country witnessed a fierce power struggle between the contenders for the top job in the fledgling state. Baghel is completing two and half years of his term in office this month, triggering a wave of desperateness among his followers and adversaries alike.

Political punditry across the board has never been on board on the issue and has been propagating starkly opposite narratives on the ’50-50 formula’ allegedly reached between Bhupesh Baghel who now heads Congress government in the state and Health Minister T S Singh Deo in the presence of Congress scion Rahul Gandhi in December 2018. As per the so-called agreement, it was decided that both Baghel and Singh Deo will head the government alternatively for 2.5 years each. Neither Congress top brass nor Baghel and Singh Deo confirmed this mutual arrangement as yet.

A weaker, in deep slumber for more than a decade then, Congress miraculously trounced the soft-spoken Raman Singh-led BJP dispensation in assembly 2018 hustings and ascended to power with a brute majority. The power struggle between Singh Deo and Baghel who sailed the ailing Congress through bad weather together, set in motion soon after the party crossed the magic mark.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel who managed to take the mantle in the fierce race for the top job has always dodged the question of the ‘50-50 formula’ as hearsay. However, the narrative is so prevalent among all hues of political analysts that he had to categorically deny any such arrangement reached between him and Singh Deo. Baghel reacted angrily to the murmurs of a probable change of guard when Congress dispensation was inching closer to complete its two years in office in December last year. He asserted that he was the Chief Minister for a full five-year term.

Terming the mumbles of a possible leadership change to lead the Chhattisgarh government, Baghel said those who have been setting canards of change of guard, can’t see the ongoing development in the state. “There is no fifty-fifty formula to head the government. I am the Chief Minister for a full five-year term. Such formulas are promulgated when coalition governments are formed. Congress won 68 seats and our government has no threat”, he had said.

The enthusiasm for this entirely internal Congress affair, however, has grown exponentially and is catching momentum with each passing day. A section of Congress leaders and journalists close to CM Baghel out-rightly dismiss the talks of leadership change as lies spread by the opposition. Agriculture Minister Ravindra Chaubey, took up the cudgel recently to defend Baghel and denied any power-sharing formula ever agreed upon.

Articulated Singh Deo, one of the key architects of the Congress dispensation once again came up with his characteristic humility and said if Chaubey has claimed so, then it must be true. But this is how this scion of erstwhile Sarguja principality outwits most political pundits and his political opponents. Singh Deo with his typical articulation never fails to flaunt his aspiration and maintains that the change is a natural process and only Congress’s top brass can decide on as to who will be the Chief Minister of the state. Sources close to Singh Deo assert that their leader is optimistic that the grand old party will keep its word.

Politically, however, Baghel and his aides did tremendously well to neutralize the threat posed by the charming Singh Deo, who observers believe, was the top choice of more than 45 newly elected Congress MLAs. The CM has not only denied him the coveted portfolio of finance but also undermined his independence and authority in day to day functioning of Health and other portfolios Singh Deo holds, one of his close confidantes once told ‘The Statesman’.

(Courtesy, The Statesman)

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