The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Apologetic Arjun queers Digvijay pitch

Bhopal, Nov. 22: As Digvijay Singh fights a grim battle to hold on to power, his one-time mentor Arjun Singh has queered his pitch by apologising for the power crisis, so far the BJP’s prime poll plank.

AICC general secretary Ambika Soni got a taste of the intra-party feuds when she visited Bhopal to give a fillip to the election campaign. At a news briefing, she struggled to downplay Arjun’s remark, claiming it was not a major issue. She said Arjun had merely apologised on behalf of the chief minister and promised that the government would tide over the power crisis in a year.

Digvijay and the Madhya Pradesh Congress have all along maintained that the power crisis is much exaggerated. They have been saying it should be seen in context of three years of drought and the state’s bifurcation that saw Chhattisgarh walking away with major power plants in Korba.

Asked why the Congress had failed to persuade chief minister Ajit Jogi to bail out Digvijay, Soni claimed Chhattisgarh did not have surplus power to dole out. Told Chhattisgarh was supplying power to several states, she said much of Madhya Pradesh’s shortage had to do with “sabotage” and burning of transformers. But she had little to say when asked how the state proposed to prevent law and order problems.

In Congress circles, speculation is rife about Arjun’s motive in raking up the power issue. Many feel he is bent on fixing Digvijay and Soni who have displaced him as Sonia Gandhi’s “eyes and ears”.

During ticket distribution, Digvijay, Kamal Nath and Soni had isolated Arjun and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Arjun was also against tying up with the Bahujan Samaj Party as it had upset caste calculations in Baghelkhand region where his son Rahul and another six loyalists are in the fray.

At the central level, Arjun was seen as Sonia’s principal trouble-shooter and close adviser till he was replaced by lightweights like Soni and Ahmad Patel. On August 20, Arjun had given vent to his bitterness at Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday function in Delhi, saying “self-seekers” now surrounded the leadership. The remark had created a stir at 10 Janpath but could not undermine Soni’s clout in the party.

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