Explained: Why is the Bhupesh Baghel facing a no-confidence motion despite a clear majority for Congress in Chhattisgarh Assembly?

A simmering power tussle between Baghel and Singh Deo, which was allowed to escalate since the 2018 Assembly elections, has now come back to haunt the Congress.

Explained: Why is the Bhupesh Baghel facing a no-confidence motion despite a clear majority for Congress in Chhattisgarh Assembly?
Former Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo (R) and Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.

Chhattisgarh no-confidence motion news: The Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government in Chhattisgarh faces a unique predicament a year ahead of polls. Despite having a brute majority in the House — Congress has 71 MLAs in the 90-member Assembly — the government today faces a no-confidence motion brought by the Bharatiya Janata Party which has only 14 MLAs on its side. The remaining five MLAs belong to the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (3) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (2).
The no-confidence motion was tabled in the Chhattisgarh Assembly on Thursday, July 21, by the BJP expressing no confidence in the council of ministers. The Speaker, after reading out the motion, scheduled it for a discussion on July 27. Justifying the move, BJP’s Dharam Lal Kaushik, Leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh Assembly, said the BJP had given notice of a no-confidence motion against the Congress government accusing it of failing on all fronts including law and order and farmers’ welfare.
He added that the state was reeling under a constitutional crisis after TS Singh Deo, a political heavyweight who had stepped down from his key portfolios, had expressed no confidence in his own party’s government. 

The power struggle behind the crisis 

Much of the turmoil that the Congress finds itself in today is of its own doing. A simmering power tussle between Baghel and Singh Deo, which was allowed to escalate since the 2018 Assembly elections, has now come back to haunt the Congress. On July 16, Singh Deo stepped down as the Panchayat and Rural Development minister, setting the stage for a direct face-off between the top two party leaders in the state. 

Singh Deo stepped down from the post citing “active non-cooperation” for funds to the department, the appointment of a chief secretary-headed committee to approve the works under the discretionary budget of the minister in charge, and massive disagreements on key governance matters, in a four-page letter addressed to Baghel.

Singh Deo, in his letter also cited non-sanction of funds under the PM Awas Yojana, and said houses could not be constructed for eight lakh people in the state despite him bringing it to the CM’s attention on several occasions. 

Where it all began

The tussle finds its genesis in 2018 when the Congress high command is believed to have agreed on a rotational formula wherein Singh Deo would be appointed as the Chief Minister after a period of 2.5 years. However, Baghel has always denied all claims to any such formula agreed upon and maintains that he continues to serve as the CM at the directions of the central Congress leadership. “Whenever the leadership wishes, I will leave the chair,” he has claimed.

Yet, the Singh Deo camp insists that Rahul Gandhi had approved the idea of rotational chief ministership and accused Baghel of backing out of the agreement. Singh Deo himself has not been shy about his chief ministerial ambitions. Singh Deo, who has waiting to hear from the party leadership, has been open about his chief ministerial ambitions, and refuses to buckle under the pressure of the eternal wait for a word from the high command that his supporters believe he has been subjected to. 
“If a person plays in a team, then doesn’t he think about becoming the captain? Won’t you want to become one? Everyone thinks about that but the question is not about his thoughts, it’s about his capabilities,” Singh Deo told news agency ANI in August last year. The remarks came soon after his meetings with Gandhi. 

What does the BJP gain from this?

With numbers clearly on Baghel’s side, and BJP busy fighting its own battles, it appears very unlikely that the Baghel government faces any real threat at the moment as far as the numbers suggest. Yet, by choosing to remain silent over the escalating crisis, the Congress may have been able to tide over a full-blown war, but has severely damaged the equations between the two top leaders a year ahead of elections in the state. 

With both leaders snapping at each other’s heels, the BJP, armed with Singh Deo’s no-holds-barred four-page letter to the Chief Minister, will use the no-confidence motion to heap embarrassment upon the Baghel government. The divisions within the Congress unit are already playing to its benefit, and the BJP wants to leave no stone unturned to ensure that it can inflict the maximum damage upon the Congress going into elections where it will look to dethrone the BJP to reclaim the state that it ruled for three consecutive terms.                  

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