Bhopal: Defeatist attitude afflicts the Congress’ approach to Lok Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh. The party’s formula for candidates’ selection has led to several interpretations and speculation. Of the 12 constituencies it won in 2009 only two responded with semblance of warmth during the November assembly elections.
Just 16 of the 95 assembly segments have returned Congress candidates. Chhindwara, Union minister Kamal Nath’s long-time preserve and Guna, the citadel of another Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, have returned three and four members to the assembly. PCC past president, Kantilal Bhuria, who never lost an election in 30-odd years saw a wash-out in all eight segments of his Constituency Ratlam. The youth brigade representative Meenakshi Natarajan’s constituency of Mandsaur returned just one legislator from Kukshi.
Now the party ranks would select some nominees while the high command would take a call on the sitting MPs. The other plan is to pit young leaders against BJP stalwarts so the defeat doesn’t hurt. Vice president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to infuse young blood through ten constituencies is an investment for future. The party plans to peg the upper age limit to 58 years on seats where it fared badly for two successive elections. Though there is logic to the formula everyone is kept guessing on the list.
While the central leadership is deliberating re-nomination of most sitting MPs the BJP and BSP are trying to lure away four of them. Uday Pratap Singh who was elected from Hoshangabad quit his Lok Sabha seat and switched to BJP on the eve of the Assembly elections. The BJP has reportedly assigned Singh to negotiate these Tribal and Scheduled Caste MPs’ switch to its fold. The targeted members are Sajjan Singh Verma(Dewas), Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi (Dhar), Rajesh Nandini Singh (Shahdol) and Premchand Guddu (Ujjain).
Verma, who made news by calling senior leader Digvijaya Singh an ‘inauspicious saboteur’ has often declared his loyalty for the party and other leaders have also vouched for him. But a clean sweep of all assembly segments in his parliament constituency would weigh on his mind.
However, a change in the party could even be worse after he accused Digvijaya Singh of having colluded with the rival party to spoil the Congress’ prospects. Rajukhedi and Rajesh Nandini Singh opposed Scindia protégé Satyavrat Chaturvedi who was the first to openly blame Digvijaya Singh for the party’s debacle in the assembly elections. Rajukhedi’s Dhar constituency has returned only one Congress legislator and Rajesh Nandini’s Shahdol two. The Congress was blanked in Ujjain, the constituency of Prem Chand Guddu, who manipulated his son’s nomination in the assembly elections. He could switch if dropped on disciplinary grounds. All that the party can do now is to wait and watch. Several the sitting MPs are cool to the idea of contesting given the scenario in the assembly segments.
Faction leaders who put up a bold face in December suggesting the assembly results wouldn’t cast a shadow on the Parliament elections avoid talking about the issue. The UPA government’s nose-diving popularity at the Centre is compounding the problem for the party in Madhya Pradesh. The emergence of Aam Aadmi Party is not hurting the BJP as much as it is affecting the Congress. Besides, the AAP is yet to make a serious contention in the state
The situation is thus ideal for the party to go for broke. The first to put his hand up was Digvijaya Singh. He was keen to contest against Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha from Vidisha. Now that he is ensconced in Rajya Sabha he could still be asked to join the fray. The other view is to field Digvijaya Singh’s son Jayvardhan Singh, currently a legislator from Raghogarh. Congress has won only two assembly segments in Vidisha and dice is loaded in BJP’s favour.
The former Olympian hockey star and union minister Aslam Sher Khan who was all but forgotten by the party has sprung up at election time to suggest that party satraps should get out of their comfort zones to motivate their followers. He wants them to contest from different seats to challenge the BJP bigwigs. He wanted Kamal Nath to shift from his traditional stronghold of Chhindwara to Jabalpur where he holds considerable support and Scindia to contest against Sushma Swaraj. Khan who organised a party workers’ conference at Bhopal got a lukewarm response from the higher ups.
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Updated Date: Feb 11, 2014 17:32:05 IST