The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong plots Uma big fight

Bhopal, Nov. 7: The Congress is planning to beat the BJP at its own game by pitting AICC spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi against the party’s chief ministerial aspirant, Uma Bharti, from the Bada Malara constituency in the Assembly elections.

The BJP’s decision to field its national general secretary Shivraj Singh Chauhan against Digvijay Singh from Raghogarh was aimed at making things difficult for the chief minister. The Congress now hopes that Chaturvedi, an MP from Khajuraho, will pose a challenge to Bharti.

The Congress has named Jagdish Shukla from Bada Malara. Architects of the plan to field Chaturvedi said Shukla, a lightweight, was given the ticket two days before Bharti announced her candidature. “All options are open, including the possibility of fielding Chaturvedi,” a senior Congress leader said.

Digvijay is going to Bada Malara tomorrow. On Sunday, the leader said, party chief Sonia Gandhi has called a meeting. The chief minister would try to convince the leadership to change the nominee.

Digvijay’s argument is likely to hinge on two points — Chaturvedi is seen to have a good chance of posing a challenge to Bharti and if she can be pinned down in Bada Malara, the Congress will gain elsewhere in the state.

Chaturvedi is not keen on the idea. But if Sonia insists, he would have little choice.

In the state Congress circles, the MP is often seen as opposed to Digvijay. Chaturvedi managed to get a ticket for his son Nitin and two supporters, including Shukla, much to the chagrin of the chief minister.

Two developments have made Chaturvedi vulnerable. First, the Congress was facing a mini rebellion after Shukla, aided by Chaturvedi, bagged a ticket.

Another aspirant from Bada Malara, Uma Yadav, has threatened to quit the party and join the enemy camp. If she switches over to the BJP in the Yadav-Lodhi dominated seat, the party’s prospects would take a further beating.

Second, Chaturvedi has become susceptible following a whisper campaign that he has worked out a tacit understanding with Bharti to ensure victory for his son.

An influential Brahmin leader from the region, he is believed to have promised to help guide his community in Bada Malara while in Khajuraho, Bharti would assist Nitin to win Lodhi-Other Backward Class votes.

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