The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay brother takes on Dalit fine

Bhopal, Aug. 3: Chief minister Digvijay Singh has suffered another blow — from a party member who is also his brother.

Laxman Singh, Lok Sabha MP from Rajgarh, toed the BJP line when he criticised the community fine the state had slapped on upper castes for their atrocities against Dalits in Digvijay’s home district.

The flamboyant younger brother, fondly called Chunnu Raja, took the dig today at an impromptu press conference in Bhopal. “I am opposed to the move as it would heighten caste tension,” he said.

“As a parliamentary representative of Rajgarh (Digvijay’s home district), I am entitled to air my views. My brother has given me that much freedom.”

Digvijay, however, was not available to confirm if Laxman had consulted him before going public as he claimed.

Laxman’s statement came close on the heels of state Congress spokesman Lalit Srivastva’s remark that Ajay Singh, Arjun Singh’s son, would replace Digvijay as chief minister after Assembly polls in November. Both incidents have highlighted the disquiet in the party.

Laxman said the state’s move to grant patta (lease) to landless Dalits and its subsequent move to book all those involved in caste-based violence was enough. “Now, there is no need to go a step further and fine them (upper castes).”

He claimed the Other Backward Classes in Rajgarh could not afford to pay the Rs 25-lakh fine as they did not have money enough to buy fodder at Rs 3 a kg.

Laxman’s every word contradicted Digvijay and nearly endorsed the BJP’s threat to launch a public stir against the fine.

On Wednesday, an uncharacteristically emotional Digvijay had told the Assembly: “Yes, I am feudal. If by defending the hapless, landless Dalits, I am being accused of having a feudal mindset, I accept the charge.”

“The country’s Constitution requires me to defend Dalits. I do not care about losing elections…. I cannot simply ignore people plotting against Dalits, burning their crops, physically harming them and my government being reduced to a mute spectator.”

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