The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Satraps swear by Sonia choice

Bhopal, Sept. 24: Sonia Gandhi is striving to introduce a “new corporate culture” in the Congress, but her satraps are equally determined to perpetuate the “old order” of leaving the entire process of candidate selection to Delhi.

The two-day meeting of the state Congress convened to select nominees for the Assembly polls was a tame affair as state heavyweights Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh decided to fight the battle for supremacy in Delhi instead of the state capital.

Members of the state election panel rushed through the names, adding as many as six to seven more for each constituency to please all factions and groups.

The preference for Delhi is clearly in violation of party guidelines and the recommendations of the K. Karunakaran and A.K. Antony committee reports, which stressed that the process of selection should be conducted at the district and state levels at least three months in advance.

Going by the current pace of selection, the screening committee, the AICC’s central election committee and the office of the Congress president (known as CP) will scrutinise the names till almost the end of October, leaving just about a month for campaigning.

For the past two days, the whole of Bhopal was covered with banners and posters of factional leaders cheering the arrival of their political masters.

This was in sharp contrast to the way the BJP went about selecting its nominees at its district headquarters. Congress workers were heard cribbing that now they will have to camp in Delhi to lobby for nominations.

Each camp in the state Congress has worked out how to have its way in the Delhi durbar. The chief minister is said to be eyeing about 125 of the 230 Assembly constituencies. Digvijay believes these are A-plus seats where the Congress has a fair chance of winning. Once he bags the large chunk, he would not bother about the remaining 105 seats that would be distributed among the others like Scindia, Arjun Singh and Kamal Nath.

Digvijay has a stranglehold on the party and was seen smiling broadly at the occasional skirmishes between Kamal Nath and Scindia. He has come a long way since he bagged the coveted post in 1993 when Narasimha Rao had directed the AICC observers to “play by the ear”.

As luck would have it, the newly-elected MLAs were sharply divided in their support to Madhavrao Scindia, Kamal Nath and tribal-backward aspirants like Subhash Yadav.

Digvijay’s name emerged at the last moment as a “compromise man”, courtesy Arjun Singh.

The “compromise man” is now almost the all-powerful leader in the state. The state bifurcation ensured that rivals like Shyama Charan and Vidya Charan Shukla, Arvind Netam and Ajit Jogi were confined to Chhattisgarh.

In Madhya Pradesh, the death of Madhavrao Scindia and Arjun Singh’s successive poll defeats have made him almost invincible.

Digvijay’s lone challenger Kamal Nath is so marginalised that recently when he summoned select supporters to Delhi, only four ministers in the Digvijay government responded.

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