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Chhattisgarh: Tussle Within Congress Deepens as More MLAs Appear to Join Anti-Singh Deo Camp

MLA Brihaspat Singh recently alleged that the health minister had attempted to get him "murdered" after Singh Deo's relative's car hit a vehicle in Singh's cavalcade.

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Raipur: After Punjab and Rajasthan, infighting within the party in Chhattisgarh has made news after tribal MLA Brihaspat Singh stunned everyone by alleging that state health minister T.S. Singh Deo “is a Maharaja” and can get him “murdered.” 

Singh made these allegations after supporters of Singh Deo allegedly attacked the car that was following his car in his cavalcade in Ambikapur on Saturday, July 24.

Singh lodged a police complaint in Ambikapur against one Sachin Singh Deo, who is a relative of T.S. Singh Deo’s. Sachin and three others allegedly attacked the car after it overtook them.

Singh’s personal security officer, who was in the car, had an altercation with Sachin and his three associates. An FIR was filed in Ambikapur Kotwali eventually.

But the issue grew into more than an instance of road rage. 

Singh who reached Raipur on Sunday, July 25, then held a press conference accompanied by 20 Congress MLAs.

The number of MLAs by his side was a straight giveaway that things were not looking up for Singh Deo, who was one of the architects of Congress’s stupendous victory in the 2018 assembly election.

Singh Deo has tried to downplay the matter and said, “Brihaspat may have become emotional over the matter and said so [that he is trying to get Singh murdered].”

His camp has maintained that he was promised two and half years as chief minister. Congress general secretary P.L. Punia and incumbent chief minister Bhupesh Baghel have, on the other hand, consistently said that no such promises were made.

Punia too was in Raipur on Sunday. Singh met both Punia and Baghel at the state capital to lodge his complaint.

Singh further said that he plans to meet Sonia Gandhi very soon and take the matter up to her.

Singh represents Ramanujganj which is one of the areas under the influence of the former Sarguja state, that was ruled by the Singh Deo family, from Ambikapur, for the past 1,000 years. The family wields enormous influence in the region and Singh would not have been able to secure victory without Singh Deo’s support.

Singh Deo had reportedly met the entire Gandhi family in Delhi in the first week of July and reminded them of this alleged promise made to him. The Gandhis’ response is unknown but Baghel was also called to Delhi and after meeting the Gandhis he made a public statement that “no change was in the offing and that this is not a coalition government where the term is divided between two individuals”.

Punia had later seconded his statement and has since maintained that no such promise was ever made to Singh Deo.

(L-R) Charan Das Mahant, Charan Das Mahant, Rahul Gandhi, Bhupesh Baghel and T.S. Singh Deo. Credit: Twitter

Then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is supposed to have made the promise to Singh Deo has not spoken a word on the matter either. By all accounts, he is pleased with Baghel’s performance as chief minister and his campaigns during the Assam assembly election. As an OBC Kurmi leader, Baghel is also likely to play an important role in campaigns ahead of the Uttar Pradesh election.

Baghel’s “term” – based on the two-and-half-year theory – was supposed to have been over on July 17.

But, so far, there has been no indication that he is on his way out. He has, meanwhile, made several appointments of Congress leaders to various positions in boards and corporations. This includes Pankaj Sharma, who was made chairman of the District Cooperative Bank. Sharma is the son of Satyanarain Sharma, a tall state Congress leader. But he was still denied a ministerial berth.

Also read: Coronavirus Breeds Contest Between Baghel, Singh Deo in Chhattisgarh

Notably, Singh Deo and Singh also met publicly at the chief minister’s house for lunch. Singh Deo, seated to the right of Punia, at the head of the table, did not eat anything. An aide later said that he hardly eats any food prepared outside home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, Singh Deo boycotted a Cabinet Meeting the day before, even though he was in Raipur. Singh Deo has also been vocal in criticising the latest health policy announced by Baghel in which private hospitals were encouraged to open divisions in rural areas with incentives. He has clearly said that the issue was never discussed in the cabinet before the chief minister announced it unilaterally. 

It remains to be seen whether Singh Deo does a Sidhu now.