Who blinked first in the Singh Deo standoff?

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Raipur, 28 July. Congress MLA Brihaspat Singh who had alleged that Health Minister T S Singh Deo wants him to get killed, apologized for his charges on Wednesday after the controversy appeared creating a verticle divide in the ruling Congress party in Chhattisgarh. It remains uncertain, however, as to who scripted the thriller that ended up as a potboiler and who blinked first in an impasse that was widely seen as part of a showdown between Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Health Minister T S Singh Deo.

Ramanujganj MLA Brihaspat Singh apologized for his ‘emotional outburst’ against Health Minister T S Singh Deo in the state assembly today. Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu in his statement said that Singh Deo had no hand in the road rage incident on 25 July in Ambikapur. He also clarified that the MLA was not attacked in the incident but his follow-guard vehicle was attacked after a scuffle with Sachin Singh Deo.

Congress party was caught unawares when miffed Singh Deo who is undeclared number two in the government in Chhattisgarh, decided to walk out of state assembly until the state government comes up with detailed clarification on the rancorous incident. Peeved at the way things unfolded and its inept handling by the government, Singh Deo walked out of the state assembly saying that he does not consider it appropriate to be present in the holy place (assembly) till the government clarifies the matter regarding allegations labeled against him.

However, he returned to the house after the intense fire-fight exercise resulted in an apology by Brihaspat Singh apologizing. Earlier, the Congress party issued a show-cause notice to Brihaspat and asked him to respond within 24 hours on his sensational allegations against Health Minister T S Singh Deo.

The impasse that had the potentials to destabilize the government, formed in December 2018 after a 15-year long banishment from the power, seems to be over now but the larger question remains as to who scripted the damp squib thriller and who blinked first? Singh Deo who steadfastly maintained grace throughout the standoff has undeniably emerged both morally and politically triumphant in turn of events that once looked like hammering his stature.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who indeed had no direct role in the vitriolic episode, is the net loser who has to bite the bullet. It was he who was seen as the key figure behind Brihaspat Singh’s outburst against Singh Deo. Initially, Baghel tried to pass the buck to insisted that Brihaspat can lodge his complaint with the party-high command. However, he had a quick retreat after realizing that the allegations against his rival had nothing to substantiate and a large number of party leaders were rallying behind  Singh Deo on the issue.

The issue which In charge of State Congress affairs P L Punia claimed, was resolved, grew exponentially instead, and prompted Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to call an emergency meeting of his cabinet. The party on its part issued a show-cause notice to the MLA Brihaspat Singh who had alleged that Health Minister T S Singh Deo wants him and four-five other MLAs to get killed. 

The party, however, appeared tight-lipped over 18 other MLAs who accompanied Brihaspat Singh in the press conference which was stage-managed by a lower-rung Congress activist and a party spokesperson.

The thriller, observers believe, was engineered to keep the speculations of a possible change of guard in the state in check and inflict an image crisis on Singh Deo who many believe, cherishes Chief Ministerial ambitions. Precisely that’s why the MLA tried to paint the incident as an act of political vendetta against him for his alleged voice of support for Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel who is at loggerheads with Health Minister T S Singh Deo over 50-50 power-sharing formula.

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