The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay & Ajit strain at Sonia poll leash

New Delhi, May 27: Sonia Gandhi might not have an independent assessment of the party’s prospects in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh despite the elaborate exercises launched by the Congress ahead of the November Assembly elections in five states.

Sources said the central leadership was dependent on the updates offered by chief ministers Digvijay Singh and Ajit Jogi on these two states.

This is a departure from the high command’s plan to closely guide preparations and monitor progress in the poll-bound states, including Delhi, Rajasthan and Mizoram.

Singh and Jogi, considered “high profile” chief ministers, have convinced the party chief of their ability to manage the poll show “locally”. They want Sonia to address election rallies and she has already spoken at several public meetings in the two states.

But the central leadership does not have its representatives in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to report on the ground situation. The “subjective” assessment of the chief ministers and other state leaders might not always be reliable, sources said, pointing to Gujarat. “It doesn’t help the party to put the blame on the state leadership after a poll defeat as we have found in Gujarat,” a source said.

Singh and Jogi have repeatedly expressed confidence about retaining power. But on the ground, the source said, many gaps were yet to be filled. In Madhya Pradesh, the chief minister has still not got his people to take charge of poll preparations in some regions. Party general secretary Ambika Soni is expected to take up issues like these with Singh at the Panchmarhi pre-poll meeting of state leaders.

Only in Rajasthan, till recently considered a weak turf among the four Congress-ruled states headed for polls, is the central leadership directing preparations.

Driven by its successful experiment of deploying a large number of central leaders on poll duty in Himachal Pradesh earlier this year, the high command has already sent observers to all six revenue divisions of the state. Former Punjab PCC chief Veerender Kataria, former Haryana PCC chief S.S. Surjewala, AICC secretaries Chandan Bagchi and Hrishikesh Bahadur and parliamentarians Rajubhai Parmar and Santokh Chaudhury have gone. Central observers are likely to be sent to each of the 33 districts.

Cong meet

The Congress president has convened a meeting of state party chiefs, general secretaries and other senior leaders in Delhi on June 3 to review the implementation of the party grassroots rejuvenation programme, announced at the national convention of block presidents in March.

The meeting has been called amid unpublicised complaints Sonia has received from states such as Andhra Pradesh about the alleged inaction over the rejuvenation programme.

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