The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anxious Arjun rushes to guru for poll boon

Bhopal, Oct. 30: Rattled by the prospects of a Congress-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Madhya Pradesh, senior Congress leader Arjun Singh air-dashed to Ujjain to meet tantrik Mauni Baba, who claims to provide “spiritual guidance” to several politicians, including the BJP’s chief ministerial nominee, Uma Bharti.

The visit assumes significance as Arjun Singh took time out from the protracted battle of supremacy in the Congress’ ticket-distribution process to call on his guru.

Stakes are high for the former chief minister in the coming Assembly elections. Although one of the few towering leaders, in the current round of ticket distribution, Arjun Singh’s clout seems to be on the decline in Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s court.

The likelihood of a Congress-BSP tie-up is a blow to Arjun Singh as most of his supporters hail from the Vindhya or Baghelkhand regions, where the BSP is seeking the maximum concessions.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary Ambika Soni and a majority of CWC members are eager to go in for a tacit understanding with the BSP.

In their assessment, the BSP would help the Congress edge out the BJP in a very close contest, where most surveys have predicted a BJP victory and shown the Congress trailing by about 3-4 per cent of the votes.

Sonia’s advisers are equally keen to net a beleaguered Mayavati for the 2004 general elections, hoping that the weaker sections would give the Congress a crucial boost to rule over Delhi.

In Madhya Pradesh political circles, Arjun Singh’s meeting with his spiritual guru is also being seen in the context of the veteran leader’s eagerness to ensure a ticket for his daughter Veena. She is seeking a Congress ticket from Hauz Khas, a posh South Delhi Assembly seat that is part of the South Delhi Lok Sabha, once represented by Arjun Singh.

The former chief minister’s son, Ajay, aka Rahul, is a senior minister in the Digvijay cabinet. There is expectation among Arjun Singh’s supporters that in the event of the Congress getting a majority, Ajay could be a candidate for the chief minister’s post, should Sonia decide to utilise Digvijay’s services in the AICC secretariat at 24, Akbar Road.

Arjun Singh’s association with Mauni Baba goes back decades.

As communications minister, Arjun Singh had gifted two telephone connections to Baba generously prompting a local daily to run a headline that said, “Jab Baba Bolta Nahin To Do Do Telephone Kyon'” (When Baba does not speak, why give him two telephones')

Digvijay supporters, however, refused to buy the theory that there was “politics” in Arjun Singh and Bharti paying obeisance to Baba, pointing out that Digvijay himself was a devotee of Mauni Baba.

A Digvijay supporter quoted the chief minister as saying: “Yes, I am a sanatani Hinduand my faith must be viewed in that form. The Congress is not a party of atheists but right from the beginning, it has been opposed (to) mixing of religion and politics.”

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