The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power rift in Cong ‘model state’

Bhopal, May 22: A day after Arjun Singh rued growing groupism in the Congress, political events in his home state sought to legitimise the senior leader’s anguish over the drift in the party.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Dabra and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh today brought more focus on the power crisis instead of boosting the party’s prospects in the November Assembly polls. She was greeted by a near complete bandh sponsored by the BJP against the midnight and pre-dawn power cuts.

The timing of Sonia’s visit intrigued many in chief minister Digvijay Singh’s camp. His supporters alleged that party general secretaries Ambika Soni — in charge of the state — and Kamal Nath have been acting in tandem to push through Sonia’s tour at a time when Digvijay is fighting a grim battle over the pre-monsoon power crisis.

In Dabra, a mammoth crowd heard Sonia lambast the Vajpayee regime for allegedly diverting Kargil war expenditure, but erupted as Digvijay’s turn came to speak.

As the chief minister appealed for calm, many were heard asking him to sit down. Sonia watched Digvijay’s discomfort but made no comment.

When she reached Jabalpur to interact with party workers, the Congress president was flooded with complaints that all was not well with Digvijay’s regime in a state that Sonia once dubbed as the Congress’ “model state”.

It is an open secret that the chief minister is at loggerheads with Nath, who also comes from the state, on the power crisis. Nath backed Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB) chief Subir Kumar Dasgupta, who submitted his resignation today under pressure from all quarters. The chief minister’s camp said he had been asked to step down earlier, but Nath was lobbying for him.

Relations between Nath and Digvijay have hit an all-time low. Gone are the days when the two leaders used to call themselves bada bhai-chhota bhai in state politics.

In Nath’s scheme of things, Digvijay’s is no longer a “model state” that could be showcased for good governance.

The party general secretary has even said that in the event of a Congress victory, Digvijay may not continue in office for a record third term as the new MLAs would decide on the chief minister.

According to Digvijay’s supporters, Nath’s remarks betray frustration over his failure to deliver in the Gujarat polls — he was in charge of the state.

Moreover, some of his loyal MLAs and ministers have switched sides and Nath has failed to grab the political space following the death of Madhavrao Scindia.

The Nath-Digvijay feud is not the lone instance of groupism in the state Congress. Yesterday, deputy chief minister Subhash Yadav went a step further to forecast defeat in the Assembly polls. He said that if the current power crisis continued, the Congress would be out of power.

Yadav, an outspoken critic of Digvijay, was reportedly upset over the chief minister calling on Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar a day after she was evicted from Yadav’s residence. In the courtesy call, the chief minister may not have offered much comfort to the Narmada oustees, but regretted the treatment meted out to them at his deputy’s house. The NBA activists, too, recalled the contrasting treatment they had received at the chief minister’s residence when they had gone uninvited. Digvijay came out to greet them on a cold morning, ordering quilts and hot puri-sabzi for the protesters.

Congress leaders in the state said they had reasons to believe Arjun Singh. The way Sonia’s tour programmes are being organised in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh leaves a lot to be desired, they said.

The venues being selected under pressure from senior leaders in places like Mandla (Kamal Nath) Dabra (Jyotiraditya Scindia) Rewa (Shriniwas Tiwari) so that they could show their clout by generating crowds would favour only a handful of ministers like Harbans Singh, Subhash Yadav, Sajjan Singh Verma and Deepak Saxena.

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