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Poll & party firefight on trio table

Bhopal, March 14: The BJP maha rally, to be held here tomorrow, is being touted as the launchpad of the party’s election campaign in Madhya Pradesh but it has more to do with infighting and power play than simply throwing out chief minister Digvijay Singh.

The Parade Ground rally, also dubbed the precursor to next month’s BJP national executive in Indore, will be addressed by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, party chief Venkaiah Naidu and law minister Arun Jaitley. The bigwigs are likely to concentrate on the struggle between star campaigner Uma Bharti, state BJP chief Kailash Joshi, and firebrand leader Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Madhya Pradesh, a conservative and backward state neighbouring Gujarat, has almost all ingredients to make the BJP successful. But so far, the party has failed to capitalise on a range of issues, including cow slaughter, Bhojshala, irregularities in electoral rolls and acute shortage of power and water.

The division within the state BJP is so glaring that the Digvijay regime is getting away with almost everything. What is biting the BJP most is the chief minister’s daring and rather successful portrayal of himself as the “true” representative of Hinduism.

While the Congress has accepted that it will go to the polls under Digvijay’s leadership, factionalism and all, the BJP workers are a confused lot. They are looking to Advani, Naidu and Jaitley to answer one basic question: who is the boss and chief ministerial nominee in the state BJP'

The central leadership has so far not given a “green signal” to top favourite Bharti. But there is no dearth of senior BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh, who privately claim that the race for the chief minister’s post is wide open in case the BJP wins.

Activists close to the state party chief Joshi are hurt and disappointed that a senior leader like him is being publicly humiliated. They feel Joshi has little or no control over a belligerent section of party members who were earlier supporters of the ailing Sunderlal Patwa and are now backing Bharti.

BJP legislators loyal to Joshi said he had been reduced to a mere spectator in Delhi recently when a party delegation had called on the Prime Minister, the President and others to protest against irregularities in electoral rolls. Bharti hogged all the limelight, as she went around speaking and issuing statements. Joshi could only look on.

BJP insiders concede that the supporters of Joshi and the leader of the Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Babulal Gaur, are not giving their “100 per cent” to Bharti as they are unsure of her abilities to checkmate Digvijay.

Bharti’s reported differences with brother Swami Prasad Lodhi are being cited as an example. The disgruntled legislators have been questioning how Bharti will carry everyone along when she has failed to win over her brother. Lodhi, a BJP MLA, is set to join the Congress.

With the tussle raging between Bharti and Joshi, a section of the BJP is looking to Chauhan, a firebrand MP from Vidisha, as a compromise nominee for the chief minister’s post. Like Bharti, Chauhan is known for his oratory skills and has greater acceptability among the BJP.

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