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As Sadhvi Pragya's entry polarises Lok Sabha polls in Bhopal, Digvijaya Singh ropes in Kanhaiya Kumar as his star campaigner

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, BJP candidate for the high-profile Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, may have hogged the limelight since the announcement of her candidature but her opponent, Digvijaya Singh of Congress, too has aces up his sleeve.

Kanhaiya Kumar, the Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate from Begusarai in Bihar, is descending upon Bhopal on 8 and 9 May to campaign for the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.

According to Digvijaya, who has called himself an ‘admirer’ of the former president of JNU Student Union (JNUSU), Kanhaiya is being roped in to address the youth of Bhopal.

 As Sadhvi Pragyas entry polarises Lok Sabha polls in Bhopal, Digvijaya Singh ropes in Kanhaiya Kumar as his star campaigner

File image of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. PTI

No one would deny the fact that there’s no second leader in Madhya Pradesh who could match Digvijaya in terms of presence across the state or network, but Kanhaiya camapaigning for him has raised a few questions.

Is Digvijaya, the seasoned political heavyweight, so low on confidence of his own candidature that he needs the help of a greenhorn like Kanhaiya who is less than half his age to canvass for him? Or is the latter the new youth icon that the Congress needs to catapult its fortunes displacing even party president Rahul Gandhi?

Considering that Digvijaya was one of Rahul's more vocal mentors when the latter was the party general secretary during the UPA II rule at the Centre, wouldn't it have been more logical to have the Congress president campaign in Bhopal?

"It’s surprising as to why Digvijaya who has been the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh twice, would ask Kanhaiya to campaign when Rahul is supposed to be their star campaigner. Is Digvijaya unsure of Rahul’s appeal and thinks that Kanhaiya, a newbie, has more appeal?" asks Supreme Court lawyer and former president of JNUSU, Sandeep Mahapatra.

Mahapatra, who had represented ABVP, the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, in 2000-01, also says that Kanhaiya’s presence in Bhopal will reaffirm the belief that the "Congress party approves seditious activities, which would further impact Rahul's image, who has sought to distance himself from this".

Meanwhile, Congress has made no announcement with regards to Rahul’s Bhopal visit. He held public rallies in Tikamgarh, Damoh and Panna on Tuesday, and will be at Pipariya in Hoshangabad district on Wednesday.

CPI has extended its support to Digvijaya on the Bhopal seat. While addressing a gathering at the CPI office in Bhopal, Digvijaya recently called himself an ‘admirer’ of Kanhaiya and had blamed the BJP and the RSS for ‘defaming the then JNUSU president’ in 2016 over an alleged slogan ‘Bharat tere tukde-tukde honge’.

“Digvijaya who’s known for his banal and ulterior views has invited someone of his ilk whose claim to fame had been to be a part of the ‘tukde tukde gang’. Birds of the same feather flock together. It’s nothing but adding nuisance value to Congress campaign, which the voters of Bhopal won’t accept,” added Mahapatra.

The Bhopal parliamentary constituency has been a BJP bastion since 1989 and it will go to polls on 12 May in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha Election 2019.

"Why Kanhaiya Kumar? And why Bhopal? He isn’t coming here to address any seat with Bihari population or any pocket of Communists. Even, if he addresses campuses in Bhopal, it’ll hardly resonate with students, as the culture in JNU and in Bhopal is completely different," remarked Varun Sharma, an alumni of Barkatullah University.

The question  arises is why would Digvijaya a two-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh take help from someone who is yet to prove his mettle as a politician, let alone as a corporator in civic body.

According to political analysts, Digvijaya may have roped in Kanhaiya, to counter the sharp polarisation that has emerged due to Sadhvi Pragya’s candidacy in Bhopal.

After Sadhvi Pragya’s entry, it appears that Digvijaya wants to secure himself from all quarters. Digvijaya's 3,300-kilometres Narmada Yatra by foot between 2017 and 2018 has already made his soft-Hindutva stand stronger.

Political commentator Abhilash Khandekar believes that a lot has changed in Madhya Pradesh in the last 15 years. "Times have changed. Situations are different. Each one needs a new icon or crowd puller to win elections. Digvijaya was chief minister 15 years ago and a lot of water has flown down the Narmada and Betwa rivers in Madhya Pradesh."

Khandear points out how besides getting Kanhaiya for campaigning, Digvijaya is also getting support from seers. After receiving blessings from ‘Computer Baba’, Digvijaya got support from another seer Mahamandleshwar Swami Vairagyanand.

On Monday, the seer forecast that the former chief minister would win from Bhopal seat and he would perform a ‘havan’ (ritual) to ensure Digvijaya’s victory. Vairagyanand further added that if it didn’t happen, he would sacrifice his life (samadhi).

 

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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2019 22:28:05 IST