With the induction of sulking tribal leader Amarjeet Bhagat into his cabinet and another tribal MLA Mohan Markam being appointed as the PCC president, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has indirectly tightened his grip over the party and the government.

Seeking to enjoy unbridled power, Baghel succeeded in getting the now shattered party brass to approve his choices for a vacant cabinet berth as well as the top party post in the state. This apparently has overtures of an adjustment of power balance in the picturesque hilly terrain of Sarguja where scion of erstwhile royal family T S Singh Deo holds sway.

Articulated Singh Deo, it is widely believed, had vetoed Bhagat’s induction into the Bhupesh ministry in December allegedly due to his perceived proximity to former CM Ajit Jogi with whom Singh Deo along with other Congress leaders has been at loggerheads. Relishing the landslide triumph and prevailing anti Jogi sentiment, the party brass agreed to withhold the ministerial birth to Bhagat in December 2018.

The Sitapur MLA took umbrage for his exclusion from the cabinet and did not return to his consituency for weeks saying he was let down by the party. However, a different and meticulous plan was underway to reverse the order in Sarguja as well as the government by Baghel and his close advisors.

The CM camp first succeeded in pressing the soft spoken blue blood to forget finance, the portfolio of his choice, and then curtailing his day to day functional autonomy. Singh Deo who wields enormous influence in his pocket borough, single handedly ensured that his party gets vindicated in all the 14 seats of his region. He also helped win many other party candidates out of his fiefdom of Sarguja, seen as an apparent move to galvanise support for the top job. And much the chagrin of Baghel and his key aides, this stratagem worked when the the over 45 out of 68 overjoyed newly elected Congress MLAs expressed their willingness to see Singh Deo as the CM after party got landslide mandate.

However he lost the race for the top job in the last minute due to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s alleged dislike for the leaders of feudal background.

Baghel dispensation since then has been trying all its arsenal to further marginalise him.

Bhagat’s entry into the cabinet could be one such move with the bureaucracy keenly watching the writing on the wall. Baghel also succeeded in getting his nominee Kondagaon MLA Mohan Markan appointed as the PCC president. Through Markam he can ensure his loyalists are placated through party posts. Thus, battle lines has been drawn after the government formation and large section of disgruntled MLAs, party functionaries and veterans have begun rallying behind Singh Deo, who it appears is not very keen to retaliate at this juncture, an insider confides to The Statesman.

Wine shop set on fire in C’garh:

A group of people allegedly set a wine shop on fire in protest against the sale of booze in their area in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district, police said on Sunday

Police have arrested four men and detained three minors over the incident which occurred in Dharampura area in Khairagarh on Saturday, a police official said. “The youths, all residents of Pipariya ward, reached the shop with kerosene bottles in their hands and raised antigovernment slogans criticising the Congress government for not fulfilling its poll promise of imposing a liquor ban in the state,” he said.

Later, they poured kerosene on the counter of the shop and set it afire, he said, adding that by the time the blaze was brought under control, the shop was gutted. The arrested persons are identified as Harshwardhan Verma, Jagendra Verma, Dageshwar Verma and Bhisham Verma. A case has been registered and further probe is underway, he added.