The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay eye on Delhi durbar

Bhopal, Aug. 17: He is never short of professing loyalty to Sonia Gandhi and consciously keeps a distance from palace politics at 10 Janpath and the Congress headquarters. But his actions indicate a clear pattern.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh is slowly setting himself up — cleverly showcasing his 10-year rule as an able administrator, a visionary of sorts — to play a bigger role at the Delhi durbar.

Digvijay’s move to slap community fines on those found guilty of communal violence and Dalit atrocities, increase the job quotas beyond 50 per cent, implement the Dalit agenda, demand a nationwide ban on cow slaughter and declare the cow as the state animal have not gone down well with the high command.

But the chief minister is going ahead with these measures that his supporters hope will put him ahead of the likes of Chandrababu Naidu and the other prime ministerial aspirants of his generation.

Examine his move to slap community fines on those involved in communal violence. Digvijay overruled his own MLA Karan Singh Pawar from Dhar and the district Congress committee that kept telling him the measure could ruin the party’s electoral prospects in the Malwa region in the November polls.

He went ahead with the unprecedented measure, saying he would prefer losing an election than be a mute spectator to mobs looting and killing people from one section of the society.

Sources close to the chief minister said he felt the need for greater nationwide sensitisation towards the communal menace. Why should justice be delayed as inquiry commission and riot panel reports are seldom implemented. In such a scenario, a community fine could act as an effective deterrent.

In a state where OBCs make up more than 50 per cent of the population, Digvijay punished a largely backward population for atrocities against Dalits. Even his brother, Laxman Singh, opposed the move, but Digvijay ruled out a review.

Madhya Pradesh is one state that buys one third of its purchases from Dalit entrepreneurs. The state has doled out about two lakh acres to landless Dalits, reducing the state’s grazing land holdings from 5 to 3 per cent.

Digvijay has many such firsts to his name. Madhya Pradesh is a rare Hindi heartland state that has implemented the panchayati raj system. The village panchayat and gram sabhas have been given adequate financial and administrative powers, often to the chagrin of local MLAs and ministers.

Though loopholes are aplenty, even his worst critics credit Digvijay with getting the system in place. Amartya Sen, many NGOs and the World Bank have lauded other innovative plans like the education guarantee scheme and the rogi kalyan samitis.

As the state inches closer to the Assembly polls, Digvijay shared his vision for the future, saying he wanted to introduce wide-ranging pension reforms to pre-empt the possibility of the pension bill becoming higher than the state employees’ salary bill. To avert such a scenario, Digvijay said he plans to start a contract system at all levels of state bureaucracy so that people could be hired, kept accountable and given remuneration in accordance to their talent.

He said given another term in office, he would empower village and local bodies to hire teachers and local level government officials. “At present, 80 per cent of the files coming to me are about transfers, postings with people pleading to be appointed nearer their hometowns. The system of having state-level recruitment for such posts must change,” he said.

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