The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boost to Digvijay, blot on MLAs

Bhopal, June 22: Sonia Gandhi has received initial feedback from election-bound Madhya Pradesh that indicates a strong anti-incumbency undercurrent against sitting MLAs but acknowledges chief minister Digvijay Singh’s hold over the state.

The report, readied by scores of “apolitical” persons and AICC observers, has made the following observations:

Several Congress MLAs and ministers are extremely unpopular because of inefficiency, corruption and failure to fulfil promises.

No major groupism is found in the state Congress. However, factionalism exists at the local level. There is need to promote a second line of leadership.

Scarcity of power and water is not a big poll issue.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh enjoys widespread support. He is seen as a hardworking, good-natured and well-meaning person whose support base cuts across regions and caste.

The Congress regime is too tilted towards Adivasis and Dalits, leading to resentment among the upper castes. All important welfare schemes are targeting Adivasis and Dalits.

There is widespread apprehension that loyalists of Kamal Nath, Arjun Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh will hog the bulk of Congress tickets for the November Assembly poll.

Scindia should be used more for campaigning. His youthful looks, oratory and voters’ sympathy for the late Madhavrao Scindia could benefit the party.

Thus, for Sonia, the election mantra seems to be to deny tickets to almost half the sitting MLAs, stick with Digvijay, abolish the quota system of ticket distribution among senior leaders and promote young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Congress’ central observers said Sonia has accorded top priority to the Madhya Pradesh election. Apart from sending the usual battery of party observers, she has sought the services of apolitical people, such as academicians, social activists and retired government officials sympathetic to the Congress, to fan out in state and get a feedback.

They have been asked not to reveal their identity to the state or district Congress office-bearers and discreetly enquire about the party’s prospects.

Each of these “apolitical observers” has been given a small kitty for travelling, food, accommodation and other expenses.

These observers have been asked to gather feedback on the candidates, the image of the party, the issues involved, chief minister Digvijay Singh’s standing and the overall political picture in the state.

Party sources said that in the run-up to the election, several other reports would be submitted to the Congress president on a monthly basis.

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