| Laxman Singh
Rajgarh, April 21: The Raghaogarh qila appears to be crumbling, with members of what was Madhya Pradesh’s first family involved in a public spat and the electorate sharply divided between raja sahib and chhote raja.
Former chief minister Digvijay Singh’s younger brother Laxman, the chhote raja, recently quit the Congress and has been fielded by the BJP from the Rajgarh Lok Sabha seat. Digvijay, whose own party doubts his loyalties, is canvassing for the Congress’ Shambhu Singh in one of India’s most backward districts, about 200 km north of Bhopal.
Royals divided on political lines make for enough drama, but Rajgarh also has a young model turned chhoti rani spilling the beans about her brother-in-law and a rebel with a “cause” hoping to cause an upset. The rebel, RSS-VHP-Swadeshi Jagran Manch leader Ashok Tripathi, is being supported by disgruntled local BJP activists who have burnt Laxman’s effigy.
In a desperate attempt to prove his “loyalty” to the Congress, Digvijay has begun speaking an unfamiliar language. Dismissing his younger brother’s switch to the BJP, the former chief minister said Laxman seemed to had been taken in by the “feel-good factor” as liquor prices have been slashed. He added that he felt sorry Laxman’s own party workers were burning his effigy.
This “unkindest cut” is said to have hurt Laxman deeply as he was trying to adhere to the family code of not attacking each other personally, much like the Scindias, who once ruled the region, have always done.
Laxman may have kept mum but wife Rubina Sharma Singh has not. The outspoken Rubina, sister of fashion czar Rohit Bal, has committed the equivalent of blasphemy by criticising Digvijay, who enjoys “God-like” status in Raghaogarh.
Canvassing for her husband, Rubina did some plainspeaking, alleging that Digvijay had all along known that Laxman — a three-time Congress MP from Rajgarh — was going to quit the party. “He must now stop acting coy. This drama should come to an end,” the chhoti rani said, adding that Laxman had all along felt “uncomfortable” in the Congress as the “Singh family” has an RSS-Hindu Mahasabha background. The BJP candidate quit the Congress two months ago.
Rubina’s revelations have been lapped up by the BJP, with Uma Bharti, who replaced Digvijay as chief minister, saying her predecessor had “advised” Laxman to join her party.
“I had asked Laxman and he told me that he had conveyed to Digvijay that he was feeling suffocated in the Congress. Laxman wanted to join (the) Samajwadi Party but Digvijay asked him to consider (the) BJP,” Uma said in an interview to a local Hindi daily today.
The “slur” has undermined Digvijay still further in the Congress. Many a Congress functionary in Bhopal and Delhi take Rubina’s remarks as a “confirmation” of their worst fears that Digvijay’s loyalties are suspect.
The besieged Congress leader is reluctant to take on his sister-in-law in public. As the patriarch of the family, he does not want to join issue with Rubina. Yet, her remarks have hurt him politically within and without Rajgarh.
For now, he is letting Rajgarh’s voters decide. “They know me in and out and I will wait for their verdict,” raja sahib said.
Madhya Pradesh Congress workers are also awaiting the verdict, albeit for a different reason. They say the outcome of the Rajgarh contest will determine where Digvijay stands. If Laxman is defeated, his elder brother will be “absolved”; but if he wins, the knives will be out, they promise.