The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minnows and Mayavati flock worry Digvijay

Bhopal, Oct. 26: The ruling Congress and the BJP are wooing non-government organisations and small parties that are likely to play a decisive role in some Assembly segments in December’s elections.

At the same time, news that the ruling party may tie up with the Bahujan Samaj Party has led to a “split-like situation” in the BSP’s Madhya Pradesh unit. The party has pockets of support in the Chambal, Vindhya and Bundelkhand regions.

There are indications that 80 of the 150 BSP candidates shortlisted to contest the polls would desert it if party leader Mayavati agrees on a seat-sharing formula with Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh. It is thought that the two parties will have an implicit understanding to defeat the BJP even if they fail to work out a seat-sharing formula.

Mayavati has had three different state party chiefs in as many months. She first removed Phool Singh Bariya saying he would the BSP’s chief ministerial nominee. He was replaced him by the little-known Sant Kumar, who in turn was replaced with P.P. Chowdhury last week.

Bariya had the most formidable mass base of the three state chiefs, but was opposed to an alliance with the Congress.

Adding to the nervousness of political parties in Madhya Pradesh is the emergence of the Gondwana Gantantra Party as a strong contender in the Mahakaushal region. Its strength has led Digvijay to sound it over a tacit understanding in the state.

The Gantantra Party has the firm backing of tribals in around 20 Assembly segments in and around Mandla, Dindori, Betul, Chindwara, Siwni, Bargi, Balghat, Pandurna and some other tribal-dominated areas.

Another potential spoiler for the major parties is the NGO Ekta Parishad. The Parishad has been working for the empowerment of tribals and Scheduled Castes in the Chambal-Gwalior region which sends 33 MLAs to the 230-member Assembly.

The outfit has traditionally been close to the Congress, but the BJP is making overtures to it. P.V. Rajagopal, the Parishad’s coordinator, does not hide his political agenda, saying the outfit would try and seek support for any party that addresses water and forest issues in the region.

The Parishad has drawn up its list of “favourite candidates”, comprising both Congress and BJP aspirants, and has made it clear that it will support the party that gives its supporters the most tickets.

The Congress faces more problems in the areas bordering Maharashtra, where the Nationalist Congress Party has won over rebel Congress MLA leader Kalpana Parulekar — the “Mamata Banerjee of Madhya Pradesh”.

Kalpana earned the tag with her spirited support for daily-wage earners who were sacked by the Digvijay regime. She has also fought for the rights of farmers, labourers and other underprivileged sections.

The Swarna Samaj Party, Samanta Dal and Shakti Dal that have come to prominence in the Vindhya region are causing the Congress and BJP some anxiety. Since the region is a Congress stronghold, the BJP is trying to forge an understanding with these groups to hurt the ruling party.

Yet another NGO — the Adivasi Mukti Morcha led by MLA Dr Sunilam — has merged with the Samajwadi Party, which has ruled out any understanding with the Congress. Even so, the Samajwadi is expected to side with the Congress if the elections return a hung Assembly.

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