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|December 2, 1998||
Digvijay Singh, a reliable performer
A scion of the erstwhile princely state of Raghogarh, Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, has again led the Congress to a breathtaking electoral victory in Madhya Pradesh.
'Diggy Raja', as he is popularly called, proved wrong the pollsters and his detractors within the Congress by exploding, almost single-handedly, the anti-incumbency bogey. While governments in Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram were swept away in one of the most emphatic mandates in Indian electoral history, Singh successfully turned the tables on the Bharatiya Janata Party, to emerge as the undisputed leader with a mass base in the state.
The victory was all the more sweet, as Madhya Pradesh is the home state of Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and BJP president Kushabhau Thakre. And that emphatic win is what got Singh, 51, back in the chief minister's saddle.
Singh, an engineering graduate, is soft-spoken and not known to be very excitable.
Singh's rise in state politics was meteoric. He took to politics at college and became chairman of the Raghogarh municipality when he was only 22. Helped, of course, by the 'royal' connection.
In 1977, he defied the 'Janata wave' to make it to the legislative assembly for the first time and soon rose to a position of eminence in state politics. In 1980, Arjun Singh, his mentor, inducted him into the ministry.
The acid test for Singh came in 1991 when as Arjun Singh's nominee for MP Congress unit presidentship, he beat back the challenge of Dilip Singh Bhuria, put up by the Shukla brothers, and Madhavrao Scindia.
After the Congress gained an absolute majority in 1993, Singh was elected chief minister, ahead of Shyama Charan Shukla, the other contender for the top executive post in the state. Singh was then a member of the Lok Sabha.
With the prophets of doom predicting a Congress rout in MP in the assembly elections -- the Congress had won only 10 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats at stake in the general elections held earlier this year -- Singh decided to field fresh faces, and his strategy worked. His promise to strengthen Panchayati Raj institutions also contributed significantly to the party retaining power, he says.
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