Chattisgarh: Miffed Over Party High Command's Failure To Honour Deal To Elevate Him As CM, T.S. Singh Deo Hints At Quitting Congress
Hinting at his impending exit from the Congress, Chhattisgarh Health Minister and senior leader T.S. Singh Deo has ruled out the possibility of joining the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Deo also scotched speculations that he is planning to float a new formation.
Singh Deo said he is still trying to figure out the next step in his political journey.
Singh Deo signalling his potential departure comes amid his increasing irrelevance and the growing clout of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
In 2018, when the Congress returned to power in Chhattisgarh after being relegated to opposition benches for 15 years, Singh Deo was among the contenders for the post of state Chief Minister.
Singh Deo, a leader from the 'upper caste' Rajput community, held the position of leader of the opposition in the previous assembly. Despite having significant support from party legislators, he was not picked for the top job by the Congress's high command. Overlooking the claims of leaders like Tamradhwaj Sahu, Charan Das Mahant and Singh Deo, the party's high command decided to elevate Baghel as the legislative party leader despite him being mired in several corruption charges.
As part of a power-sharing formula, the high command reportedly assured Singh Deo that he would be made the chief minister after two-and-a-half years.
Since Baghel (from the Kurmi community) was credited with rallying a significant portion of the state's OBC population to support the party in the 2018 state assembly elections, the high command calculated that his hold over a section of OBC would also prove beneficial in the northern and central OBC belt in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, this strategy failed as the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, retained support from the OBC castes and swept the election in northern and central India.
A shrewd political operator, Baghel bounced back from the 2019 Lok Sabha elections debacle and established a complete stranglehold over the party and government. He subsequently managed to marginalise Singh Deo completely.
In August 2021, Singh Deo began reminding the party's high command of its promise. Both Baghel and Singh Deo met with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to resolve the deadlock over the rotational chief ministership. However, the high command decided that Baghel would remain in the saddle. As the state goes to poll later this year, this may be Singh Deo's last roll of the dice to realise his ambition.
The Congress party has struggled with leadership issues and rebellion at the state level. In the recent past, in Punjab, former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was forced to resign due to a rebellion led by the Gandhi family's preferred candidate Navjot Singh Sidhu. The party ended up getting routed in the state.
Similarly, in Rajasthan, there is an open power struggle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and leader Sachin Pilot since the party won elections in 2018. The ongoing conflict that could harm the party's chances in upcoming state elections.
It appears that Chhattisgarh may also be posing a similar problem for the Congress party.
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