By LS Herdenia
BHOPAL: Two former chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh — Babulal Gaur of the BJP and Digvijaya Singh of the Congress – find themselves caught in fierce controversies.
Babulal Gaur, nearing 90, has announced his intention to contest from his traditional constituency in Bhopal. Gaur has been holding this seat since 1973, when he was elected as the joint candidate sponsored by non-Congress parties. Since then, he never looked back and has won ten consecutive Vidhan Sabha elections. After Uma Bharti’s ouster, he became the chief minister in 2004 but was asked to quit due to reasons which are not known even today.
In 2005, Shivraj Singh Chouhan replaced him. He joined the Shivraj cabinet and handled several departments. But, again, for some strange reason, he was asked to resign. For public consumption, it was said that he had to go because he had crossed 75 years of age. Along with him, another minister, Sartaj Singh – the only Sikh member in the council of ministers – was also asked to resign. But, subsequently, the BJP president said that there was no such criterion. A few months ago, Gaur announced that he wanted to contest the 2018 Vidhan Sabha elections. He repeated his resolve after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a rally in Bhopal, while speaking to him made a cryptic remark “Gaur Saheb, ek baar aur.”
But now, he is being challenged by a section of his own party. The other day, a group of party men performed a “Yagna” and recited “Sunderkand” of Ramcharitmanas. The objective was to oppose the likely candidature of Gaur from the Govindpura constituency. BJP workers, who held this religious ritual, made it clear that they were not only against Gaur but also against his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur. Even after this “Yagna” Gaur reiterated his resolve to contest for the eleventh time.
The controversy surrounding Digvijaya Singh is of a different nature. Digvijaya Singh has repeatedly announced that he has no intention to contest any election and that he has no ambition to become chief minister again. For a long time Singh has not being given importance in the party programmes. It has been noticed that Congress president Rahul Gandhi does not take cognizance of his presence in the party programmes.
Perhaps, referring to him being ignored in the party, he is reported to have remarked that “the Congress loses votes when I campaign for the party”. He said this was the reason why he was skipping election rallies. In a viral video, Singh is heard saying that his party’s votes get reduced if he campaigns for it. The video was recorded on October 13, but it went viral on a day that Congress president Rahul Gandhi was in the state to campaign for the Assembly elections.
Significantly, Singh, a two-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, has been conspicuous by his absence from the programmes and the rallies which Gandhi has been addressing over the past few weeks.
In the video, in which he is seen talking casually to party workers at the residence of MLA Jitu Patwari in Bhopal, Singh also advises Congress workers to campaign for all party candidates wholeheartedly.
“Dekho, khawaab dekhte rah jaoge agar kaam nahi kiya to. Nahi banegi sarkar agar aise kaam kiya to. Jisko ticket mile, chahe dushman ko mile, jitao (You would continue dreaming if you don’t work. You can’t form the government if you work like this. Even if a ticket is given to your rival in the party, you should ensure his victory”, he is heard telling party workers.
When contacted, Singh said the video was not being shown in a proper manner. “If you hear the first part, you will understand why this is so,” he said. However, considering Congress’ legacy of factional fights, the video has triggered speculation that despite the party high command’s best efforts, factionalism is smoldering in the Madhya Pradesh Congress. Many also wonder if Singh has been asked to keep a low profile because he is in the habit of making controversial statements on issues ranging from “Hindu terror” to Batla House encounter of 26/11 and the recent tweet in which he showed a bridge in Pakistan as one under construction in Bhopal (which he quickly apologised for).
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan seized upon the chance to take pot shots at Congress and his old rival. “It is not us but his own party that has given him this pain. He is not there on posters nor is he addressing public meetings. Nobody had imagined that Congress would give such a raw deal to its senior leader. At least the party should respect his stature,” the CM told a news channel during his Jan Aashirwad Yatra.
The Congress sought to play down the video “Digvijaya Singh is a respected leader of Congress. He is doing what the party has asked him to do. The chief minister should rather explain to people why he is so desperate that he has to accompany Vyapam scam accused Laxmikant Sharma on his Jan Ashirwad Yatra when he had kept him at bay after his arrest,” said Bhupendra Gupta, state Congress media cell vice-chairman.
The video also led to speculation that it was Singh’s way of expressing unhappiness over being neglected in the party’s campaign. In an interesting footnote to the episode, Singh’s office issued a press release later that his programme for the evening had been partially modified. He was supposed to leave for Delhi from Morena by Shatabdi Express but would now fly by a special plane.
Sources in Congress say this is an indication that party president Rahul Gandhi, who was in Madhya Pradesh for the past couple of days, has taken Singh’s video seriously and the change of programme is at his behest as he would now be accompanying Rahul in his special plane from Morena.(IPA Service)