Tussle within the Chhattisgarh Congress has spilled onto the street following a road rage incident involving a tribal MLA and a relative of state Health Minister TS Singh Deo.
On Saturday evening, the convoy of Congress MLA from Balrampur, Brihaspati Singh, was passing through Ambikapur. Apparently angry at the vehicles overtaking him, a young man intercepted an escort vehicle, smashed its windshield and verbally abused the security personnel.
Police have lodged an FIR under the IPC and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and named Sachin Singh Deo, a relative of the health minister, and others. The accused have been arrested and their vehicle seized.
During a press meet at which at least 15 Congress MLAs were present, Mr Singh accused the health minister of trying to get him murdered. He alleged that about four other MLAs may also get killed.
"I just want to know what my fault is," he asked, and said he will ask the same question to "TS Baba", referring to Mr Singh Deo, and Congress in-charge for Chhattisgarh P L Punia. He said he will write to party chief Sonia Gandhi and senior leader Rahul Gandhi on the matter.
"Get me killed if you want to, become CM if you want to, but tell me what is my fault for which you are getting me attacked," he said. "I am not a candidate for the CM seat, nor a claimant to a minister post... I am an Adivasi MLA... here to fight for development in my area. Where is the competition?" the MLA said.
Mr Singh added that his flaw is that he calls a spade a spade. "Neither am I a supporter of Bhupesh Baghel, nor of T S Baba. I am a supporter of the Congress," he said.
Balrampur is in the Surguja subdivision, a stronghold of Mr Singh Deo. The health minister is also the titular Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Surguja.
Taking a swipe at Mr Singh Deo's royal background, the Balrampur MLA said. "During the reign of Rajas and Maharajas, our ancestors would be tied up and flogged. We are from the new generation, literate, we know our rights. If we have expressed our opinions, what crime have we committed? Will you beat us up now as well?," he said.
"We are with Bhupesh ji because he is doing good work," the MLA said. "We are going to a meeting of legislators... We will urge Punia ji to do away with ministers who are spreading terror and to not let the image of the Congress and the government get maligned."
Responding to the allegations, Mr Singh Deo said these are internal matters of the party and said the MLA's remarks could be an emotional outburst. He also said the legislators' meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere.
Asked about the allegations, he said, "In that region, and to an extent in Chhattisgarh, I think people know me better than I do. There is not much to say."
Reiterating that he thinks the allegations were "emotional", he said things become clear when people sit and talk.
Interestingly, the Balrampur MLA and Mr Singh Deo were seen posing together in pictures clicked at the meeting.