The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On poll-eve, Digvijay prays
- Chief minister travels God’s way, supporters take ungodly path

Bhopal, Nov. 30: Digvijay Singh rushed around, temple to temple to astrologer, though he had earned a deserved rest after holding 320 public meetings in 20-odd days of campaigning.

Advertisements appeared in local Hindi papers asking voters to avenge Mayavati’s humiliation — at the hands of the BJP in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh — in an obvious appeal to Dalits to back the Congress. Unclaimed fatwas were doing the rounds of mosques, again to vote the Congress, prompting the qazi of Bhopal, Qazi Abdul Latif, to issue a disclaimer.

As campaigning ended, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister sought out the hand of God and sought the guidance of planets. When pre-poll surveys have written him off, Digvijay’s astrologers predicted a third term on the basis of “planetary movement”.

Astrologer Pundit Murlidhar, one of Digvijay’s favourites, described why he saw fortune smiling in the complicated positional play of Venus and Saturn.

His client appeared to be having trouble with planets in the Sonia Gandhi orbit, though. Briefly in Jabalpur, Digvijay had a heated exchange with Kamal Nath, the AICC general secretary, over selection of some nominees who the chief minister thought were no-hopers.

Kamal Nath, a self-proclaimed leader of the Mahakoshal region that sends 51 candidates, is said to have retorted that some of the party candidates were so upset with Digvijay they did not want him to visit their constituencies. That is quite surprising because the chief minister has held more than double the tally of 147 meetings his rival, the BJP’s Uma Bharti, has notched up.

At 1 am, Digvijay quietly left without any security. His first destination was the Shankaracharya Math in Jabalpur founded by Jagatguru Swami Swaroopanandji Maharaj of Dwarka Peeth. After spending about an hour, he headed to the Baglamukhi temple, also in Jabalpur.

Baglamukhi is another name of Kali, the goddess of shakti (power). At the temple, scores of pundits are said to be praying and performing yagna to please Baglamukhi Devi. Local tantriks like Ram Sunder Jatashankar believe a pleased goddess has the power of instant delivery.

While Digvijay — it must be acknowledged that he is not a temple visitor only at election time — was seeking divine intervention, pitted as he is against Uma, some of his supporters appeared to be taking resort to ways that are not strictly certified by gods or goddesses.

Officially, the Congress distanced itself from the clandestine operation of soliciting Dalit and Muslim votes.

The state-run Anusuchit Jati Parishad (Scheduled Castes Commission) put out newspaper ads, asking voters to seek “revenge for Mayavati’s insult”. The ad had inserts of newspaper headings quoting Mayavati as saying: “Main BJP is bayaj samet badla loongi” (I will seek revenge from the BJP with interest) and “Pakri jaun to bhi BJP ko harana” (defeat the BJP even if I am arrested).

There is a tacit understanding between Mayavati’s BSP and the Congress in a state which has 16 per cent Dalit voters. The BSP has fielded 160 candidates, leaving 70 seats vacant with Mayavati’s message that Dalits should defeat the BJP.

But BSP Rajya Sabha MP Gandhi Azad is uncomfortable with the way the Congress has sought to use Mayavati’s anger to its advantage. “It is true that we are opposed to the BJP. But it does not permit the Congress to use us to beat the BJP.”

Azad is also upset over unconfirmed reports of distribution of pamphlets in some small towns in which Mayavati has ostensibly asked voters to back the Congress. “I can say with confidence that no appeal has been issued by her and if it bears her signature, it must be forged,” he said.

Congress leaders declined comment, saying they had no knowledge of such incidents.

Qazi Abdul Latif disowned a so-called fatwa asking Muslims to vote for a Congress nominee, Arif Aqueel, a minister in Digvijay’s government. “I have issued no fatwa. In any case, there is no provision to issue a religious decree in a democratic process where each voter is free to exercise franchise,” the qazi said.

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