Chhattisgarh Congress feud out in the open

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Raipur, 27 July. The Congress party appears to be grappling with an endless internal conflict especially in the states ruled by it. The grand old party was not over yet from tackling the fierce factional feud in Punjab and Rajasthan, a road rage incident blew the lid off the simmering tensions between the warring sides of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and health minister T S Singh Deo.

Congress MLA from Ramanujganj, Brihaspati Singh claimed he was attacked at the behest of  Singh Deo for voicing support for Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. The MLA on Sunday went on to allege that he was being attacked at the behest of Singh Deo and that the minister wants to ge him killed.

The issue of attack on Brihaspati Singh rocked the state assembly on the first day of the monsoon session. Opposition BJP MLAs demanded a probe by the House committee. Brijmohan Agarwal of the saffron party said that an MLA is accusing the minister of trying to get him assassinated. Narayan Chandel said that the attack on the MLA just before the commencement of the House is like an attack on the Legislature.

The turn of events was so fast and furious that P L Punia, AICC in charge of the party affairs in the tribal-state who was in the capital, returned midway from the airport to mollify the frayed tempers on both sides on Monday. He chaired a meeting of leaders from the warring sides including CM Baghel, Singh Deo, MLA Brihaspati Singh, and Lundra MLA Chintamani Maharaj. 

The brawl has some deep political undertones with signals emerging from Delhi indicating recently that a change of guard in Chhattisgarh is on the cards and could become a reality after the 15th of August. The restlessness in CM camp can thus be gauged and critics see the whole fiasco as part of efforts to thwart even a rumored leadership change. However, CM Baghel and Punia categorically denied any such change after party high command had held wide discussions with Baghel and Singh Deo in New Delhi last month. Singh Deo maintained his typical silence on the issue.

Punia had to face a barrage of frustration in a meeting with District Congress Presidents who openly complained that the bureaucracy has turned arrogant and untamed across the state and babus do not even give an audience to the party leaders at the district level. Several top leaders are also gasping for space and attention in the overtly babu-ruled Chief Minister’s secretariat. It is also an open secret that IAS Anil Tuteja, a key accused in the infamous NAAN scam related to PDS, and State Administrative Officer Ms. Saumya Chaurasiya rules the roost in the CM office.

There has been a flurry of grievances against Ms. Chaurasiya from several quarters for quite a long time for wielding enormous power. However, the party brass allowed the tension to grew disproportionately and did not pay any heed to the grumbles by scores of Congress veterans.

Also Read https://thenationalpress.in/2021/07/25/amid-change-of-guard-murmurs-congress-mla-claims-he-was-attacked/

CM Baghel indeed was given a free hand to run the fledgling state, however, the things under him began deteriorating with his aggressive politics and governance soon started overlapping each other and no role left to play for any of his party peers.

The one-upmanship, endorsed by the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, brought some game-changing schemes like NYAY income scheme for marginalized farmers and farm-hands and  Gordhan Nyay scheme to encourage cattle-rearing in the state. While NYAY scheme had a terrifying impact on the exchequer with the state government reeling under a heavy debt trap of around Rs. 70,000 crores. The acclaimed Godhan NYAY scheme, on the other hand, has become a source of large-scale corruption across the state with countless cases of bogus cow-dung purchasing and its theft.

Unbridled power to Baghel undermined other party satraps such as T S Singh Deo, Charan Das Mahant, and Tamradhwaj Sahu. Singh Deo especially, has been wedded with a struggle to save his political existence and stature ever since the Congress government assumed office. Even the so-called formula of two-and-a-half years of power-sharing did not bring him any result so far.

His marginalization began even before Congress assumed the office when Bhupesh, Singh Deo’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. Party sources in New Delhi claim it is not Baghel alone who is keen on impeding Singh Deo from occupying the top job in Chhattisgarh, but Congress scion Rahul Gandhi does not seems to be interested in installing an ‘articulated Maharaja’ by replacing a combative, a head-strong Bhupesh with a discernible leftist bent.

Also Read: https://thenationalpress.in/2021/06/29/how-far-will-singhdeos-disagreement-with-bhupesh-go/

A series of electoral reversals due to his growing proximity with left politics, notwithstanding, Rahul Gandhi has amply made it clear through his actions that he prefers leaders of left orientation over anyone else. Precisely this is the reason why Singh Deo has been rendered waiting even after the deadline for the mysterious 50-50 power-sharing formula ended on 17 June.

The scion of the erstwhile Sarguja princely state has even today pinned all his hopes on the mysterious ‘power-sharing agreement’ between him and Bhupesh. He also hopes that Congress scion Rahul Gandhi would keep his ‘word’. It is this hope that he has been patiently swallowing a sustained political onslaught against him. More than 45 out of 68 Congress had rallied behind Singh Deo when hectic lobbying was on for the post of CM between Baghel and former Sraguja royal. CM Baghel and his associates have been making endeavors since then to eat into the support Singh Deo enjoys among the party MLAs.

Given the altered political landscape in the state and changed dynamics in the grand old party nationally, Singh Deo has begun to assert himself indicating that he is not willing to play second fiddle in the government anymore. He made his intentions tellingly visible when he not only protested but almost rejected the idea of funding private hospitals to build health infrastructure in the rural areas, a policy CM Baghel had announced a day before albeit without consulting Singh Deo who holds the health portfolio.

Also Read: https://thenationalpress.in/2021/06/06/50-50-formula-debate-heats-up-in-chhattisgarh/

The feud intensified further with Bhupesh protege Brihaspati Singh making sensational allegations against the ‘Maharaja’ who played a vital role in routing the then ruling BJP from the entire Sarguja region. He is the 117th descendent of the Raxel dynasty which ruled the picturesque Sarguja region for over 1000 years. His supporters unleashed a tsunami of retaliation with virtually all the Congress office-bearers from the Sarguja region demanding action against Brihaspati Singh for making the wild allegations against Singh Deo and his family.

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