| (Left) Digvijay Singh greets local BJP leader Shivrah Singh in Guna on Wednesday. (PTI)
Bhopal, Dec. 3: The menu is ready and the spread will be laid out at noon, but none knows for sure whether it will be a lunch to usher in another round of power politics or bid bid farewell to it.
None, except host Digvijay Singh.
“Come and celebrate with me,” a beaming Digvijay said today, rejecting exit polls that have unanimously put the BJP far ahead of his Congress in the state. “They (the opinion polls) deserve to be thrown into the rubbish bin.”
Tomorrow, Digvijay will know whether these will go down as Indian politics’ most clairvoyant comments or most famous last words, for failure will banish him to a bin of self-imposed exile for 10 years.
Ladling out another plateful of baffling confidence, the chief minister has invited reporters for a lunch of Dal Bafley — a Malwa delicacy that resembles a cricket ball and made of baked dough.
The chief minister is known for his partiality to symbolism, and not many has missed a small but spicy detail: the poll outcome hinges on the voting pattern in Malwa, the cradle of the dish. Malwa sends 65 MLAs to the 230-member Assembly.
Bafley is best eaten sitting cross-legged, mashing the baked dough in dal, with a generous helping of ghee. Chutney, according to taste, is recommended for those who like it.
The cuisine is known to induce sound sleep. But Digvijay today strove hard to give the impression that he is not losing sleep over the result.
Fresh from a visit to family borough Raghogarh where he spent “quality time” with his grandchildren, daughter and son, Digvijay reached Bhopal today and called on BJP leader Babulal Gaur, the leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, who was injured in a road accident on the day of polling.
On the way, Digvijay sought to explain why he was confident of winning. He said three factors have either been ignored or not taken into consideration.
• The BSP did manage to transfer its votes to the Congress in most Assembly segments where Mayavati’s party was coming second or third. “A word from the BSP leadership went down well,” he said.
• In areas bordering Narendra Modi’s state, tribals did not vote the “Gujarat way”. “I have confirmed reports that the Congress managed to hold on in many places.”
• In the Gondwana region, the anti-Congress tribal votes got split between the BJP and the Gondwana Gantantra Party. “So the BJP’s losses will be our gain.”
Digvijay asserted that in the event of a Congress defeat, he would not hold any office and would not contest any election for 10 years. “I will remain a primary member of the party,” he said. Asked whether he would rethink if the party leadership asks him, he said: “There is no question of going back on it. There are other things apart from power politics.”
He said he had “no regrets” about his performance as chief minister for 10 years. “The media was misled about power and road issues. Tell me, which state does not have power shortage or power cuts'”
He had taken a conscious decision to invest in the “development sector” such as education, health, Dalit empowerment and panchayati raj, instead of setting up big industries and highway flyovers. “Tell me, what will you do if you have hundred rupees' Would you not spend it on food and clothes'”
In the last two days, the chief minister again did his usual rounds of temple-hopping, paying obeisance to Lord Hanuman, and attending yagnas. Challenger Uma Bharti did her own bit, visiting the Lord Venkateshwara temple in Tirupati, a favourite Digvijay destination.
Digvijay’s confidence level has rattled his rivals. Senior BJP leaders and Uma associates cannot fathom why the chief minister is so upbeat. Many are privately discussing and cross-checking whether Digvijay has done “some mischief” or “trick”, pointing at the chief minister’s oft-repeated statement that elections are not won on development but on “election management”.
Sources said Digvijay is banking on the high turnout in the afternoon. Heavy polling was registered then, fuelling speculation that the “establishment” made a last-ditch effort to net more votes.