How far will Singhdeo’s disagreement with Bhupesh go?

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Ajaybhan Singh

Raipur, 29 June. Despite being undeclared number two in the government, Health Minister TS Singhdeo, who feels he is constantly being marginalized, has openly expressed his disagreed with the decision of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, about a government decision on Universal Health Scheme. Is this disagreement as common as it appears, or it has a between-the-line message?

Singhdeo, in a statement yesterday, said that no decision has been taken regarding this scheme as yet. And if at all a decision has been taken, I have not been consulted in this regard, I am hearing all this in the media. He said, “I do not agree with the plan to increase health facilities by giving grants to private hospitals in rural areas, although I have seen and heard it in the media only.” Earlier, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had announced that government will grant aid to the private sector to boost health infrastructure in the rural areas. 

Singhdeo said that the government should run the scheme and if private hospitals are being included, then they should clarify that they will not charge patients for the treatment. Private hospitals cannot be allowed to avail of the double benefit in the form of government aid and treatment cost from the patients.  Health Minister further said that the private sector will not provide free treatment in rural areas, so the grant will not be used. I am not in favor of giving grants to the private sector, I am in favor of the Universal Health Scheme, he declared.

Political punditry is keenly watching as to how far Singhdeo’s disagreement with CM can go. Ever since the Congress government was formed, Singhdeo has been wedded with a struggle to save his political existence and his stature. He is grappling with the chief minister’s one-upmanship from day one. The so-called formula of two-and-a-half years of power-sharing did not bring him any result either.

The scion of erstwhile Sarguja princely state had pinned all his hopes on the now-defunct ‘power-sharing agreement’ between him and his rival Bhupesh Baghel. He also hoped that Congress scion Rahul Gandhi would keep his ‘word’. It was this hope that he patiently swallowed a sustained political onslaught against him.

His marginalization began even before Congress assumed the office when Bhupesh, Singhdeo’s struggle era comrade, refused him the portfolio of finance despite active persuading by the Congress ‘Big Guns’. It is also no secret that as the Health Minister, he was not given as much autonomy as an ordinary minister gets. Political corridors can still be heard with glee at the alleged incident when Singhdeo was badly upset after seeing a member of the Baghel’s advisory quartet in a meeting of officers of his department.

The bottom line is that Singhdeo, who has let his due wrested on the bargaining table, now wants to try out all his political possibilities. He wishes to extract maximum from the existing setup. The late Ajit Jogi was a master of this mantra and perhaps that is why he often used to insist that ‘politics is all about power sharing’.  

The sympathy of the legislators notwithstanding, Chhattisgarh has almost negligible possibilities of a Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa, or Madhya Pradesh-like political hullaballoo concerning this blue blood politician. Singhdeo therefore will have to rely on achieving maximum only by staying in the existing power ecosystem. These sporadic sparks of dissent are occasional manifestations of the same turmoil he is going through.

(Writer is Raipur based Journalist)

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