Plagued by desertions, Cong faces uphill task

Plagued by desertions, Cong faces uphill task

Plagued by desertions, Cong faces uphill task

On July 11,2013, Leader of the Opposition Ajay Singh in the Madhya Pradesh assembly got up to put forth his arguments on a ‘no confidence motion’ he had moved against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Before he could speak a word, the Congress Legislature Party leader’s deputy Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi objected to his party’s move and crossed over to the BJP.

Over the next few months, trickle turned to a flood with Congressmen making a beeline for the BJP.

In December last year, battling all odds, Chouhan stormed back for a third consecutive term with increased numbers.

The faction-ridden Congress, which has been in opposition since 2003, could win only 58 seats (out of 230), seven less than its tally five years ago.

Congressmen are convinced of the party not returning to power soon and some of them have decided to join hands with the BJP.

In the last three weeks, three Congress MLAs joined the BJP leaving the grand old party speechless.

The exodus from Congress is still on with district-level leaders continuing their march to the BJP camp as elections progress.

Congress leaders express helplessness at these desertions.

Factionalism is rampant in the state unit of the Congress with senior leaders Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Satyavrat Chaturvedi trying to cut each other’s influence.

Though there have been proclamations of unity after the party’s third consecutive defeat in the assembly, on the ground the differences persist. Moreover, being in the Opposition in the state for 10 long years has also taken its toll on the Congress organisation.

It is against this backdrop that a pumped up Chouhan has launched ‘Mission 29’ – to make a clean sweep in Madhya Pradesh.

In the 2009 elections, the BJP had won 16 of the 29 seats, Congress 12 and BSP emerging victorious in one.

The Congress still appears to be nursing the wounds of the defeat in the assembly elections in December, last year.

The AICC has tried to infuse new energy in the party by naming young Arun
Yadav as the state unit chief and Satyadev Katare as the Leader of the Opposition.

At the same time, senior leaders have been directed to focus on their fiefdoms and ensure better results for the party.

Another key development was moving controversial leader Digvijaya Singh to the Rajya Sabha.

The wily former chief minister is not known to enjoy the best of relations with other leaders and was seen as one of the reasons for the party’s defeat in December.

CM’s clean image

The BJP’s victory in the assembly elections is still fresh in the minds of the electorate a large segment of which still swears by Chouhan’clean image and the development work carried out by him.

An underlying factor for a sizeable number of voters is the possibility of seeing Chouhan in the country’s top seat in case Modi fails to get the adequate numbers to form the government at the Centre.

Besides Chouhan, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj has also taken it upon herself to address maximum rallies in the state.

However, all is not hunky dory in the state for the BJP as many leaders were unhappy over the ticket distribution.

While the BJP may benefit from the strong organisational structure across the state, the Congress candidates are banking more on their personal reputation and less on the party.

In BJP, the regional stalwarts Babulal Gaur, Ashok Argal, Kailash Joshi are said to be upset with Chouhan over the distribution of Lok Sabha tickets.

While former chief minister Gaur was pitching for his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur to be fielded from Bhopal, Joshi was angling for L K Advani. Argal, a two-term MP from Bhind, found himself out of favour with the party.

The BJP had fielded Bhagirath Prasad, a Congress defector, from the seat prompting Argal to stay away from campaigning.

Besides Argal, the BJP has also denied tickets to three sitting MPs – Shivraj Lodhi (Damoh), Govind Mishra (Sidhi) and Makhan Singh Solanki (Khargone).

This has led to heartburn among the leaders. Madhya Pradesh BJP chief Narendra Singh Tomar was forced to shift to Gwalior from Morena to escape the anti-incumbency. 

Chouhan is banking heavily on his personal charisma to swing voters in his favour once again. He has been addressing almost half-a-dozen public meetings across the state every day.

The evenings, if he is in Bhopal, are reserved for the campaign of local candidate Alok Sanjar, a relative non-entity in the state.

A former corporator, Sanjar was the office secretary in the state unit of the BJP and the least controversial candidate in the battle of stalwarts.

The result – Gaur has stayed away from the campaign giving some anxious moments to Sanjar.

On the other had, the Congress has fielded some formidable candidates and is relying on the undercurrents against some sitting BJP MPs.

Before the candidates were announced, political analysts believed that the BJP would limit the Congress to four seats in the state, but now the picture appears to be different. For the Congress, sitting MLAs Ajay Singh (Satna), Imarti Devi (Bhind) and Govind Singh (Morena) are considered strong candidates who can give a tough fight to the BJP.

The Congress is sure of retaining their traditional strongholds of Chhindwara and Guna represented by Union Minister Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia respectively.

BJP campaign managers contend a higher voter turnout in the three-phased election in the state will go in their favour.

The first phase of elections on April 10 for 9 seats saw 63.33 per cent voting, second phase on April 17 for 10 seats witnessed a 54 per cent turnout.

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