By L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: In the midst of hectic electioneering for four by-polls – one for Lok Sabha and three Vidhan Sabha – Congress suffered serious setback when one of its legislators joined the BJP. He is the 27th Congress legislator who has left the party after March 2020 when the BJP ousted the Kamal Nath-led government by engineering defection in the then ruling party.
Sachin Birla from Barwah assembly constituency was reportedly angry over Congress leadership. Sources said several senior Congress leaders were deputed to convince Birla, but he refused to talk to the Congress leaders.
He joined BJP in presence of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and cabinet minister Kamal Patel in a public meeting held at Bediya in Khargone district on Sunday. Sources said that Kamal Patel played an important role to convince Birla to join BJP. Barwah assembly seat represented by Birla falls in Khargone district but it is a part of Khandwa Lok Sabha seat where the by-poll is scheduled on October 30 along with three other assembly seats in the state.
“Calling Birla ‘bikau’ (saleable) is an insult to the soil of Nimar”. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said dismissing Congress’s criticism of the switchover. “Patriots are joining BJP” he said.
The 41 year old had won Barwah seat by over 30,000 votes in 2018, wresting it from BJP’s two-time winner Hitendra Singh Solanki. PCC chief and former CM Kamal Nath said BJP was resorting to “bargaining and auctions” yet again as it senses defeat in the October 30 by-poll. The young Gujjar politician’s resignation from Congress comes just two days before the most powerful Gujjar politician in Congress, former Rajasthan deputy CM Sachin Pilot is slated to address rallies in three by-poll areas, including Barwah. Welcoming Birla on stage, Chouhan said “badi der bhai nandlala kaha fanse the dushtan mein (where were you trapped among the rogues for so long)”? Birla apologized to his constituents for ‘not being able to do anything for them” during15 months of the Kamal Nath government.
Birla’s switchover triggered a war of words between Chouhan and Nath. The CM said that Birla had appealed to Nath several times for important irrigation projects and roads in his constituency and a modern market for the famous Bediya chilli, but Nath used to dismiss it saying there was no money “When there was no money, why did he become chief minister” Chouhan wondered.
Referring to Nath’s ‘bikau’ remark, Chouhan said “No one has the power to buy Sachin Birla. Kamal Nath had made Vallabh Bhavan (state secretariat) a house of touts where work was done only by negotiations of transactions. He didn’t even have the time for MLA Sachin Birla. Birla had no choice (but to join BJP). It is wrong to blame BJP for the weakness of Congress”.
“After Congress won, BJP had made up its mind to sit in the opposition for five years, but due to wrong policies and corruption, their government fell.” Chouhan said, remarking that Rahul Gandhi and Navjot Siddhu have now ‘drowned Captain Amarinder Singh’s government in Punjab”.
“Congress lacks in leadership in Madhya Pradesh as well as Centre. There is no hope for it. Congress isn’t able to keep its house in order, yet it blames BJP” Chouhan remarked.
Nath hit back by saying” “BJP formed the government in MP through bargaining and bidding after people rejected them in the elections and made them sit at home. Now BJP has seen the mood of the people ahead of by-polls in four seats. To save its government BJP is once again indulging in bargaining thereby stigmatizing politics and insulting the citizen’s right to vote”.
“Shivraj ji, no matter how much politics of bargaining you do to save your chair, you will fail because the public has rejected you and will give a befitting reply” Nath added.
Meanwhile Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh have entered the campaign in a big way. Call it a coincidence or strategy, but Raja and Maharaja of state politics have started campaigning in by-polls after a long silence and both started with rallies from Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency.
Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, often termed as Raja, started his day-long campaign in favour of Congress candidate Raj Narayan Singh Purni on Sunday. At the same time, popularly known as Maharaja, Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia also started his campaign on the same day and from the same constituency. The two leaders known to be bete noire, were close companions in Congress till a year ago.
Digvijaya Singh had three rallies in the constituency. In his first speech, Singh said Shah, Modi and Mamu (a term he uses for Shivraj Singh Chouhan) need to be reined in “They think that voters will die but vote only for us. If they are not defeated they will further increase the price of fertilizers and fuel. “They need to be reined in” said Singh addressing the crowd in Singot in Pandhana assembly.
Singh also addressed public rallies in Nepanagar and Omkareshwar in support of Congress candidate taking the BJP central and state leadership head on, Singh said the Modi led BJP government is on a selling spree of assets created by the Congress in the past 70 years and they question what Congress did in 70 years of its rule.
Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia also addressed three rallies on Sunday, two of them were in Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency. The main focus remained on the rally in Shahpur, hometown of deceased BJP MP Nandkumar Singh Chouhan. (IPA Service)