By L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: With the announcement of polling dates for the Kolaras and Mungawali Assembly by-elections, hectic activity has started in both the Congress and Bhartiya Janta Party. The byelections were necessitated by the death of sitting members. Both the seats were held by Congress. Mungawali was represented by Mahendra Singh Kalukheda, a committed loyalist of Jyotiraditya Scindia. Congress seems to be ahead of BJP in terms of preparations and has announced its candidates. The delay in BJP’s selection is ascribed to differences between state and local leadership. Congress is boosted by the victory in the local body elections. While BJP candidates won in nine seats of chairpersons, Congress equalled the tally and one seat went to a Congress rebel, who contested as independent.
The results have left worry-lines on the face of BJP leadership as the party won 196 seats of ward members while the Opposition parties secured 145 seats. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has blamed rebel candidates for the reverses faced by the party. “We would have done better had we selected the candidates more carefully” he said.
Congress also appears in a better shape largely due to the appointment of Deepak Bavaria as the AICC in charge of Madhya Pradesh Congress. Bavaria, who hails from Gujarat, has to a large extent made the party’s district units active. He has been touring the state and interacting with the local party workers. Bavaria is constantly in the news, while his BJP counterpart Vinay Sahasrabuddhe has turned his back on the state ever since his appointment as the chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). Bavaria was appointed state in-charge in September last year. Since then, he has visited the state as many as ten times. And these were not whistle-stop tours as he stayed in the capital for two-three days and also visited other areas. His tours have helped activate the district-level leaders of the party.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had made Bavaria the state in-charge with the primary mandate of reenergising the party machinery. Bavaria is interacting on a regular basis with MLAs, former MLAs, DCC chiefs, student leaders and elected representatives of urban civic bodies, besides leaders of different communities and classes. According to Congress spokesperson K K Mishra, Bavaria’s enthusiasm was rubbing off on the party leaders down the line. He said that Bavaria has already held a series of meetings with representatives of different groups, communities and classes and that has served to recharge the grassroots level workers.
The BJP on the other hand, is a study in contrast. Vinay Sasharabuddhe, the general secretary in-charge for the state, has not visited the state even once after his appointment to the ICCR. Even earlier, his activities were nothing to write home about. He had failed to implement even the programmes finalised in the presence of BJP president Amit Shah. The national president had asked Sahasrabuddhe to organise motorbike rallies of BJYM workers in the state on January 31. The plan seems to have been abandoned. Shah had also asked that meetings with MPs, MAs and defeated candidates of the party be held, but that too has not happened.
There are also other incidents that have affected the image of the ruling party. Two ministers assigned by the chief minister to unfurl the national flag on the Republic Day declined to go because they wanted to do it in their home districts. This amounted to virtual defiance of the chief minister. Reports reaching Bhopal reveal that at many places MPs and MLAs quarrel publicly on petty issues.
A viral video of an incident in Itarsi, where teachers made students take a pledge on Republic Day not to work for BJP candidates or vote for the party until the system of online examination is stopped has caused embarrassment to the ruling party in election year. The students are heard repeating that they will spread “awareness in their district about corruption and injustice of BJP” and that each of them “will make three others take the pledge within 24 hours”. There have also been other bizarre displays of resentment by members of public. For instance, a man in Sagar printed the wedding cards of his son with the message ‘hamari bhool, kamal ka phool’, and a shopkeeper used the same slogan on this receipts. (IPA Service)