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Party rivals still in awe of Digvijay

Tara Shankar Sahay in Bhopal | December 02, 2003 22:13 IST
Last Updated: December 03, 2003 00:09 IST

Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, it appears, has stepped on too many toes in his party but if there are few voices willing to go public against him, credit is due to his survival skills, which helped him retain power in the 1998 assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh when even his own party had written him off.

But irrespective of the poll results this time, Singh will have to explain why a state that was power-surplus a decade ago was reduced to a power-deficit one.

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"Has the chief minister forgotten the dozens of MoUs he signed with private companies for producing power? What happened to those grandiose schemes," asked Ramesh Bansal, an engineer in Malaviya Nagar. "Now, he (Singh) claims to be buying power from other states for Madhya Pradesh. Where is the accountability?"

Congress activist Guddu Yadav said that Singh should have made way for an OBC candidate like Deputy Chief Minister Subhash Yadav. This would have neutralized the support the Bharatiya Janata Party would have gained by projecting Uma Bharti as its candidate for chief minister.

Pachauri's supporters are upset because Singh had 'totally hijacked' the party's electoral campaign at the expense of veterans like Kamal Nath, Arjun Singh and Pachauri himself.

Nandan, a 47-year-old Congress activist, alleged that Singh had engineered Kamal Nath's defeat in Chindwara during a Lok Sabha by-election, which the BJP's Sunderlal Patwa won, by choking campaign funds.

"Once he became entrenched in Bhopal, Digvijay Singh changed from a congenial person to an uptight and aloof one. He began weakening all those who had helped him reach where he is," he said. The chief minister denied party tickets to his mentor Arjun Singh's supporters in Madhya Pradesh.

Singh has stepped on too many toes, Nandan said alleging that Pachauri had once lost from the Bhopal parliamentary constituency because the chief minister did not extend the requisite help during the electoral campaign.

A common refrain in Bhopal is that Singh had become inaccessible to most people. "He foisted a bureaucrat on the state electricity board. The chief minister did not realise that sullen officials of the board would get even by making excessive power cuts and aggravate Singh's electoral prospects," said a government official.

However, Singh's reputation is such that, the results of exit polls notwithstanding, even his critics are not willing to write him off. This is the result of the good showing of the Congress in the 1998 assembly polls when Singh managed to retain power after everyone, including his party, had assumed MP to be a lost cause.

"Psephology and such things come later. In Gujarat, the BJP was swept to power with a convincing majority in spite of exit poll results to the contrary," said C M Singh, a Congress worker. If it came to a small difference between the Congress and the BJP (of 10-15 seats), he said Singh would form the government.

"Congress rebels who did not get party tickets fought the election on the tickets given by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. If they win, they will support the Congress and help Singh form the government again," he explained.

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