The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay wakes up to power crisis

New Delhi, June 3: If the onion could spell the BJP’s doom in Delhi, would power trip the Congress in Madhya Pradesh'

“Power pyaj (onion) na ho jai,” was one worry that the party’s central leaders voiced in private when they met Digvijay Singh, the chief minister of the poll-bound state, a few weeks ago.

The leaders were drawing a parallel between Delhi’s acute onion scarcity before the 1998 Assembly poll that saw the ruling BJP tumble out and the power crisis now crippling Digvijay’s state, which is barely five months away from polls.

The Opposition BJP, led by Uma Bharti, has been focusing on the power situation, while Union law minister Arun Jaitley, in charge of overseeing the BJP’s poll preparations, piled more pressure by quoting reports to show that the pace of development in the state had slowed.

Digvijay, too, seemed not to be helping his cause as he kept harping on soft Hindutva topics about which the party high command never appeared comfortable.

Today, however, Digvijay seemed to have realised the situation as he devoted an entire news conference in Bhopal to reeling off statistics to show how his state has been performing well on the development front.

It was evident he had been advised to recast the image of his government, which has come under increasing attacks on many fronts. Besides power shortage, Digvijay has been facing criticism for the poor state of roads. Jaitley had launched the first major attack six months ago, quoting from several reports, including one from the CII.

Digvijay, who refused to entertain any “political” questions throughout the hour-long conference, sought to rebut every charge that Jaitley had made, though he acknowledged that the power crisis was a serious concern in an election year.

In what promised to become a debate in the run-up to the November election, he promised to counter Jaitley’s charges point by point. He said he would reply to every letter he gets from the Union minister on development issues and promised to send a written reply to Jaitley tomorrow and release it to the media.

He questioned the authenticity of the CII report as, according to him, it had not yet been released. Nor would he accept any private organisation’s assessment of his government’s performance, he asserted.

On the power front, Digvijay said the shortage was not confined to his state as every state faced the problem. The reality was power sector reforms had failed to yield the desired results. He did not forget to thank party chief Sonia Gandhi for helping the state get power from Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, party-ruled states with “surplus” power.

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