The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay in power tussle

Bhopal, May 19: It is becoming like a mass civil disobedience movement in the state.

In Digvijay Singh’s Madhya Pradesh, more and more districts are witnessing incidents of arson, damage to government vehicles and property, and lawlessness over erratic power supply and late-night power cuts.

Sensing an opportunity, the BJP has gone on the offensive, leading the protests all around. While Digvijay and the Congress cry foul, the BJP has started getting mass support.

In Tikamgarh, an angry mob set fire to the office of the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Supply Board. Among those arrested were Bajrang Dal convener Sanjay Srivastava, BJP MLA Madanlal Goel and several other state-level party functionaries.

In Damoh district, a crowd attacked the collector’s office, forcing the police to resort to lathicharge and pelt tear gas shells to disperse them. Bhopal saw angry residents storm the state electricity supply board’s circle office and damage property. Power-related incidents of violence have also been reported from Jabalpur, Indore, Gwalior, Datia, Shahdol, Chindwara and some other districts.

Madhya Pradesh, otherwise a peaceful state, is in the grip of unprecedented violence following the chief minister’s move to cut power supply for two hours between 11 pm and 6 am. With the temperature soaring to around 45 degrees Celsius in central India, post midnight and pre-dawn power cuts prevent residents from storing adequate water. The load shedding, moreover, comes in addition to a three-hour mandatory cut in the morning and evening.

State power secretary Deeraj Mathur defended the government’s decision on the ground that late night and pre-dawn power cuts have become essential to maintain parity between cities and rural areas that were going without power for several hours.

Poor rainfall, state bifurcation, heavy transmission and distribution losses and the state’s poor finances are some of the key factors that have forced the government to resort to power cuts, he said.

But the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Uma Bharti, rejected these arguments. The Digvijay regime, she asserted, lacked the will to check power crisis. “When I was minister for coal and mines, I wrote several letters to Digvijay offering assistance but got no response,” she said.

As for the bifurcation, Bharti pointed out that the chief minister knew well in advance that Chhattisgarh would be carved out of the state. “What prevented Digvijay from taking adequate measures'” she asked.

The chief minister, confident of tiding over the crisis, said a good monsoon could even now change matters. Commenting on the charges levelled by Bharti, Digvijay said when the state was divided, he had thought that power would be available from private entrepreneurs. “But collapse of the Enron project changed everything.”

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