Congress, which once used to be the central pole in Indian politics, is now a sinking ship. There is a glass ceiling for talented leaders within the party. This ceiling is set according to the proximity of the central high command. The grand old party, Congress, instead of rectifying the causes of desertion, is hell-bent on committing political hara-kiri. The high command fuels the infighting rather than dousing the flames. The infighting within the party was one of the major reasons for its humiliating debacle in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. The party seems to have found a deja vu moment in the form of the Chhattisgarh turf war.
Patience running out
It is an open secret that there are two factions in Chhattisgarh Congress. CM Bhupesh Baghel and senior Minister TS Singh Deo have been fighting over the “power share agreement” for a long time. Unlike other times, now the infighting has gone beyond subtle messaging and rhetorical statements. To openly register his frustration with the top functionaries of the state and party’s central high command, TS Singh Deo resigned from the Panchayat and Rural development department.
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On Saturday evening, 16th July, TS Singh Deo sent a four-page resignation letter to chief minister Bhupesh Baghel. In his letter, he cited various reasons for his resignation and heavily criticised his own government. He stated that in the “current scenario” it is impossible to fulfil the targets of the panchayat raj department made by the party in its Jan Ghoshna Patra (poll manifesto).
Chhattisgarh Minister TS Singhdeo resigns from the post of state's Panchayat & Rural Development Minister pic.twitter.com/eG7oiIocMl
— ANI (@ANI) July 16, 2022
He blamed that the draft of rules prepared by his department was changed without taking him into confidence. The changes in the draft of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act were not in line with his department’s recommendation and he was not kept in the loop for making such changes.
Further, he accused that under the Mukhyamantri Samagra Gramin Vikas Yojna, a committee of secretaries led by the Chief Secretary was constituted against the standard protocol. The purpose of the committee was to grant final approval to works which should have been at the discretion of the concerned minister.
He blamed the government for undermining his position as a minister against the set protocol. He claimed that the party had failed to fulfil the promises made in its election manifesto.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY)
In his letter, he mentioned that despite his repeated request to the Chief Minister, funds were not allocated to build houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY). He accused that because of this failure of the government, eight lakh families had to remain homeless. It is interesting to note that PMAY is the flagship scheme of the union government led by the ideologically rival party BJP.
In the letter, he said, “Under PMAY, housing was to be provided for homeless people of the State, something I had discussed with you many times and had also requested for allocation of funds. But the amount was not made available, and as a result, houses for about eight lakh families could not be built. The right for rural housing was among the 36 targets of Chhattisgarh we had set for ourselves in our jan ghoshna patra (election manifesto)”.
Additionally, he also lambasted the conspiracy in the strike staged by MGNREGA workers.
In the letter, he added, “As a part of a conspiracy, employment assistants under MGNREGA were made to stage a strike, in which the role of Assistant Project Officers was clearly established. You yourself [Mr. Baghel] had formed a committee to fulfil the demands of the protesting employees, and yet the strike wasn’t called off. This affected wage payments of Rs 1,250 crore which would have supported the rural economy”.
Earlier episodes of this rivalry within Chhattisgarh Congress
According to the media reports, there was a power-sharing agreement of two-and-a-half year terms between Bhupesh Baghel and TS Singh Deo. It was said that the high command came up with this solution to end the rivalry between the two senior congress leaders of Chhattisgarh unit. But the disagreements have been expressed through public statements. TS Singh Deo has on several occasions showcased his power. He often visits Delhi which creates tremors in the state political circles.
The rift took an ugly turn in September 2021, when Congress’ Ramanujganj MLA Brihaspat Singh alleged that Mr Singh Deo wanted to kill him. 18 more party MLAs accompanied MLA Brihaspat Singh. Then TS Singh Deo had to draw the line and refused to attend assembly until the state government gave clarification on this matter. The party humiliation ended when Brihaspat Singh apologised in the House for his statement.
Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu clarified that the grave charge levelled against Minister Deo was baseless.
It is important to note that TS Singh Deo has just started the troubles for Chhattisgarh CM Baghel. With his resignation from one portfolio, he has made his intentions clear to the party high command that such action can be repeated in the future if his demands are not fulfilled by the party. He still holds four portfolios as he is the minister for Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education, Twenty Point Implementation and Commercial Tax (GST) departments.
He has sounded the warning bells for the party as it can’t rule out the possibility of a major split on the likes of Madhya Pradesh depicted by Jyotiraditya Scindia. The party and CM Bhupesh Baghel know the capability of TS Singh Deo and which is evident from his portfolio and the confidence of other MLAs he enjoys. Having said that, if things continue within congress as it has been, it will find ways to shoot itself in its foot and a repeat of Jyotiraditya will happen in Chhattisgarh owing to the rebellion by its stalwart TS Singh Deo.
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