LS Herdenia

Cutting across factional loyalties Kamal Nath’s appointment as Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president has been welcomed by the rank and file of the Congress. With his vast experience of fighting elections Kamal Nath has aroused hope of giving tough challenge to the BJP in the Vidhan Sabha elections scheduled in the month of November this year.

Kamal Nath migrated from West Bengal and contested Lok Sabha election from Chhindwara in 1980. Chhindwara, incidentally, was the only Lok Sabha seat in MP which the Congress won in 1977. From 1980 onwards, barring once, Kamal Nath never tasted defeat.

As Central Minister he maintained cordial rapport with all the important leaders of the Congress. A local newspaper reporting Kamal Nath’s appointment gave the headline now it will be Kamal (Kamal Nath) versus Kamal (BJP election symbol).

Besides Kamal Nath, the new team takes care of various communities and regions. Jyotiraditya Scindia represents Gwalior region. Bala Bacchan, a tribal leader and Deputy Leader of the Congress Legislature Party comes from Nimar region. Surendra Choudhary, a schedule caste leader comes from Bundelkhand, Ram Niwas Rawat hails from Chambal region, Jitu Patwari, a very active Congress leader comes from Malwa region. Kamal Nath will represent Mahakoshal.

Bala Bachhan, Jitu Patwari, Ram Niwas Rawat and Surendra Choudhary have been appointed as working presidents while Jyotiraditya Scindia will head the campaign committee. It is generally felt that representation should have been given to the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, two other events which took place on April 17 and April 18 will have a decisive impact on the MP Vidhan Sabha elections which are scheduled to take place by the year end. The first event relates to the constitution of the BJP team which will guide and supervise election campaign of the ruling party. The other event relates to Digvijay Singh who announced his decision to enter the state politics in a big way. He chose Indore to make his announcement in the presence of his wife Amrita and Rameshwar Neekhra, a very senior leader of Congress. Both Amrita and Neekhra were with Digvijay Singh throughout his six month long Narmada parikrama.

Rakesh Singh, three-time Lok Sabha member from Jabalpur is the new state BJP president. For the last many days several names were in circulation for the new president. But nowhere Rakesh Singh’s name figured in this list. Thus he was a dark horse. His appointment came as a surprise to many including top leaders of the party. Singh hails from Mahakaushal and through his appointment regional balance has been achieved.

Besides president, a core group has been constituted to oversee all the issues related to Vidhan Sabha election. Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was not so long ago considered a top runner for the state chief’s post, will be the coordinator of the election committee. He will be assisted by MP from Mandla Faggan Singh Kulaste, minister for water resources Narottam Mishra, minister of state Lal Singh Arya, who will be the joint coordinators.

Union minister Thavar Chand Gehlot, Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, MP from Damoh Prahlad Patel, outgoing BJP state chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan, cabinet ministers Bhupendra Singh, Rajendra Shukla and Maya Singh have been appointed members of the committee. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rakesh Singh and BJP organisational general secretary Suhas Bhagat are special invitees.

Rakesh Singh’s appointment as state BJP chief ensures there is no factional divide and orders from both the central leadership and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan are implemented with no questions asked.

Earlier it was claimed that Rakesh Singh also belongs to the OBC community and for the first time both chief minister and state unit chief are from OBC. Later Rakesh Singh revealed that he is Thakur and not OBC.

With not much fan following in the state BJP Rakesh Singh has his feet on the ground. In his own words, he said “I don’t believe that I can do everything alone. Team work is important and the energy of lakhs of party workers will help us reach the target in 2018 and 2019. Every BJP worker in each polling booth is Rakesh Singh. I don’t know what I can achieve but leave no stone unturned”.

Known for sharp diplomatic skills, CM Chouhan once again got what he wished for, be it by hook or crook. Singh may have been appointed as the state president of the BJP but it is Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Panchayati Raj minister, who will convene the election management panel in the state.

This means that Tomar will once again lead the party in the upcoming Assembly elections. It was the duo of Tomar and Chouhan which had led the party to victory in last state polls. Rakesh Singh, who is also chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha, was put in the fray at the last moment after a consensus over names of Cabinet ministers Narottam Mishra, Rajendra Shukla and Bhupendra Singh couldn’t be reached.

However, again it was Shivraj who got the upper hand by putting forward the equation of caste balance and Singh in place. Narottam Mishra, Rajendra Shukla and VD Sharma were in the fray. For Mishra and Sharma, approach in party cadre didn’t deem fit to many while Shukla is to get his share of penetration among public.

Sources said it was RSS which finally settled the issue on the recommendations of Tomar. Rakesh Singh came out as the undisputed name on Tuesday and after the CM also pitched for him. Appointment of Singh could lead to fissures as messages of discontent were floating in social media as upper caste candidate was not chosen. To curb discontent, Mishra was made co-convener of poll committee. Rajendra Shukla and Maya Singh were made members. To balance out Dalit factor, Lal Singh Arya and Faggan Singh Kulaste were made co-conveners.

During this year’s election, the BJP will miss Anil Dave, who was considered to be very competent and dynamic election manager. Dave who was made minister of state in Modi Ministry died at a very premature age.

While the BJP has set up elaborate election machinery the Congress is yet to make headway in constituting a team which will take care of various problems connected with elections. Even now it is not clear who will be the chief campaigner of the Congress.

While no decision has been taken about the leadership of Madhya Pradesh Congress team, Digvijay Singh has announced that he is ready to energise the party machinery. Launching blistering attack on the state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, he blamed the state government for nearly destroying Narmada which is the life line of the state.

At a press meet at Indore he challenged the Chief Minister to substantiate his claim that over six-crore saplings were planted on the bank of Narmada. He said during his six-month parikrama he could count not more than one lakh plants. Due to ruthless mining of Narmada the sand mafia has destroyed Narmada. Sand is mined with the help of heavy machinery, he added.

Replying to questions he said efforts would be to unite the party men in the state. He has announced a unique programme to bring party men belonging to various factions on one platform. He named the programme as “Pangat se Sangat”.

Digvijay also indicated that he enjoys the blessings of Shankracharya Swami Swaroopanand. He disclosed that he undertook Narmada parikrama on the direction of Swamiji.

Swami Swaroopanand was the chief guest at Barman where Digvijay terminated his parikrama. Many people in light hearted talk describe Swaroopanand as Congress Shankaracharya.

*By LS Herdenia