By L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: Both the Congress and BJP are yet to decide their candidates for the Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh. However, informal discussion on the likely choices continues. The most difficult task is to decide the fate of former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. Both Chief Minister Kamal Nath and AICC General Secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia have suggested that Singh should contest from the toughest seat.
It may be recalled that Digvijaya Singh launched his political career when he was elected to the Municipal Committee of his home town Raghogarh, as a non-Congress candidate. Later, he joined the Congress and was elected to the Vidhan Sabha in 1977 when Congress was routed in the entire country. In 1980, he joined the Congress ministry headed by Arjun Singh. In 1984 he was elected to Lok Sabha. In 1993 the Congress fought Assembly election when Digvijaya Singh was the state president. After elections he became Chief Minister and completed two full terms – a rare feat. He was the first chief minister of the state to complete two terms.
After Congress’ defeat in 2003, he declared that he would not contest any election for ten years. He kept his word and did not contest any election for more than ten years. He however entered Rajya Sabha and continued to be Rajya Sabha member. Left to himself he will like to contest from his home constituency Rajgarh. But he is being forced to change his constituency. Among the constituencies which are being suggested is Bhopal. Bhopal is basically an urban constituency and is inhabited by thousands of Central and State Government employees.
As it is, Digvijaya Singh is not very popular among the employees. Several factors made him unpopular. As Chief Minister he retrenched 27,000 daily wages employees. This was the biggest en masse dismissal of government employees. Besides, on many occasions he publicly said that he doesn’t care about the support of this section of voters. People faced lot of inconveniences because of shortage of electricity and poor condition of roads. In fact, Uma Bharati, under whose leadership BJP fought the 2003 Vidhan Sabha elections, gave the slogan to defeat Digvijaya Singh for his failure on the front of Bijli, Sadak and Pani. Thus it can be said that Bhopal does not seem to be an ideal constituency for Digvijaya Singh.
As far as Sumitra Mahajan is concerned, she was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989 after defeating P. C. Sethi, former Chief Minister of MP and former Central Minister. Sethi was elected to the Lok Sabha after defeating Communist leader Homi Daji in 1967. After that he was continuously elected to the Lok Sabha barring a brief period when he became Chief Minister from 1972 to 1975. He, however lost in 1977, and was elected in 1980. In 1989, he was defeated by Sumitra Mahajan, a Marathi-speaking leader. She enjoyed popularity because of her affable nature and was seen as a caring politician. Because of a good presence of Marathi speaking people and their overwhelming support she continued to retain the seat.
In 2014 she was elected speaker of the Lower House. Now, there is demand for the change within the party itself. Age is also a factor which is against her re-nomination. Kailash Vijayavargiya, a powerful politician of Indore, who holds the assignment of BJP national general secretary, is her main opponent. Vijayvargiya, who is a former state minister vacated his Vidhan Sabha seat in favour of his son, who won the last (November 2018) Vidhan Sabha election. Vijayvargiya, who is already in the thick of national politics, will prefer to enter Lok Sabha. Although he is not expressing his desire to contest but behind the curtains, he is lobbying for ticket from Indore.
Besides Vijayvargiya, Mahajan is facing opposition from senior party leader Satyanarayan Sattan, who is claiming that she has not been in touch with party workers in the city and they were upset over this. “If the party gives ticket to Mahajan for the ninth time, I will be forced to think of contesting against her as an Independent candidate. Majority of the party workers are unhappy with him as she has not been in touch with them” Satan said. He said the BJP would be better off choosing general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, local MLAs Ramesh Mendola, Usha Thakur or city mayor Malini Gaud as its nominee for Indore.
Though he BJP high command is unlikely to accept demands of Sattan but by not including name of Mahajan in the first list, a signal has been given to her detractors that they would not be ignored. “Sattan is a seasoned leader of the BJP. The party will first convince him and then declare Tai as candidate from Indore Lok Sabha seat,” a BJP functionary said.
The saffron party declared candidates from states neighbouring Madhya Pradesh including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh but not from MP, the state which gave BJP 27 out of 29 members of Parliament in the last LS polls. A senior leader of state BJP wishing anonymity stated that the names of probables from MP have not been finalised. (IPA Service)