The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay waves away BJP’s ‘giant killer’

Bhopal, Nov. 5: In the 1984 general elections, Rajiv Gandhi sprang a surprise by fielding a young Madhavrao Scindia against the veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee from Gwalior. He proved a giant killer, keeping the man-who-would-be-Prime-Minister out of the eighth Lok Sabha.

Almost 20 years later, the BJP has taken a leaf out of the Congress’ manual. It has pitted party national general secretary Shivraj Singh Chauhan against Digvijay Singh in Raghogarh, the chief minister’s former fief.

Only time will tell if Chauhan can do a Scindia, but Digvijay sees no threat, comparing his challenger to the proverbial sacrificial goat.

Tilak laga kar usko sacrifice karne bhej diya hai (He has been anointed and sent to make a sacrifice),” said the chief minister, who took the day off from work yesterday after returning from week-long parleys on ticket distribution in Delhi.

Sources said the first thing the chief minister did on his return was to catch some sleep. In Delhi, his daily almost 20-hour schedule permitted rest only between 1 and 4 am.

Looking cheerful in a spotless white kurta-pyjama and Jawahar jacket, Digvijay yesterday met a handful of party office-bearers. But his plans to relax, surf TV channels and, maybe, watch Pinjar at leisure did not materialise. One of the channels reminded him of the gory incident in Sagar district, where a group of Congress leaders attacked party nominee Harsh Yadav to protest against denial of ticket to outgoing MLA Brij Bihari Pateriya.

Harsh was seriously injured in his left eye. Digvijay rushed to Bhopal Memorial Hospital, where he was left searching for words to console and comfort him.

Shaken by the gravity of the misdemeanour, Digvijay sat down to write an appeal to party colleagues, asking them to calm down and unite for the “coming battle”. He said Nehruvian and Gandhian legacies have taught Congress activists that politics is not about power or adorning public offices, it is about service and sacrifice.

The Congress has drawn up almost a complete candidate list while the BJP has released a list of 139 nominees. Going by the respective lists, the two sides seem to have done a bit of role reversal. In 1998, Digvijay had introduced many fresh faces to overcome anti-incumbency while a large number of sitting BJP MLAs had lost. This time around, the Congress is going ahead with “tried and tested” nominees while a confident BJP is experimenting.

Moreover, the BJP is going all the way with the tactic of fielding influential leaders against equally formidable rivals. Rajiv had successfully repeated the Gwalior exercise in Allahabad, putting up actor Amitabh Bachchan against Hemvati Nandan Bahugana. Apart from setting up the Chauhan-Digvijay contest at Raghogarh, the BJP has also pitted Uma Bharti’s brother, Swami Lodhi, against Congress minister K.P. Singh from Pichore in Shivpuri.

A closer look at the BJP’s list shows a long list of nominees who have parents or other close relatives in the party, a dynastic trend many attribute to the Congress.

State BJP chief Kailash Joshi succeeded in getting a ticket for son Deepak, Bharti for Lodhi, Dileep Singh Bhuria for daughter Nirmala and Laxmi Narayan Pande for son Rajendra. The list is long enough to accommodate another half-a-dozen names already. Another 81 candidates are still to be named.

Lodhi was, of course, in politics before Bharti, but given his track record and the heaps of “indiscipline” complaints against him at the BJP headquarters, his candidature would not have been half as smooth as it turned out to be on Monday.

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