"Government Safe": Bhupesh Baghel Amid Chhattisgarh "Leadership Issue"

Some 55 Congress MLAs close to Mr Baghel have also reached Delhi in a show of strength by the Chief Minister.

Bhupesh Baghel and TS Singh Deo both met with Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday. (File)

New Delhi:

Weeks after stepping in to untangle the Punjab Congress mess, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today got down to a repeat act for Chhattisgarh, where Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel's job is threatened by rival TS Singh Deo.

Both the Gandhis met with Mr Baghel, who has defiantly brought about 50 Congress MLAs to Delhi in a show of strength.

"There is an issue of leadership, which we are addressing," said Congress's Chhattisgarh in-charge PL Punia earlier today, conceding for the first time that there is a crisis.

Soon after Mr Baghel completed half-term in June, his minister TS Singh Deo laid claim to the Chief Minister's post based on a rotational arrangement that he claims was promised to him in 2018, when the Congress came to power in Chhattisgarh.

But Mr Baghel has made it clear he will not quit without a fight.

"Yesterday I received a message that I have to meet Rahul Gandhi, so I have come. Our government is safe. All our 70 MLAs are united," he told reporters after arriving in Delhi for his second meeting with Rahul Gandhi this week.

Mr Baghel and Mr Singh Deo both had met with the Congress leader on Tuesday.

Sources said Mr Baghel was given the clear message in that meeting that his future as Chief Minister is under review.

Mr Singh Deo hasn't returned to Raipur since then and has reportedly pledged to stay in Delhi until a decision is taken, one way or the other.

Mr Baghel was asked to stay too, but he returned to the Chhattisgarh capital the same day, reportedly to mobilise MLAs in his favour.

One of the ministers who is in Delhi to support Mr Baghel, Amarjeet Bhagat, said: "We have come to talk to our leaders. Our government is doing very well under Bhupesh Baghel's leadership. We only want to tell the leadership to keep blessing us."

The Congress swept the Chhattisgarh polls in December 2018, winning 70 of 90 seats and leaving incumbent BJP far behind at 14 seats.

The power tussle has pitted two of the Congress's own leaders in an embarrassing numbers game. Mr Baghel's supporters say around 55 MLAs back him.

Officially, the Chief Minister has maintained that he is ready to go the moment the Gandhis say the word.

"I will step down when Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Ji order me. Those talking about 2.5 years plan are trying to bring political instability but will never succeed," Mr Baghel told reporters on Wednesday.