The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Son’s duel ties Arjun down in family bastion

Churhat (Madhya Pradesh), Nov. 30: Arjun Singh was on the road seven days a week from 9 am to 9 pm braving bumpy roads and arthritis to ensure victory for son Ajay, alias Rahul Bhaiyya, from the family borough of Churhat.

Singh had his task cut out for increasing caste consciousness with the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Apna Dal and the Samajwadi Party in the region is threatening to undermine Churhat’s first family. The barren landscape of rock-strewn towns and villages in Sidi district bordering Jharkhand is intimidating enough, with little water and no prospects of cultivating the land.

Singh, a three-time Madhya Pradesh chief minister, who has also served as a governor, Union minister and Congress vice-president, once entertained ambitions of becoming Prime Minister. But he has a battle on his hand just to make his son win the Churhat Assembly seat.

Singh was given a Bell helicopter to campaign across the state, but the tight contest in Churhat had pinned him down to his borough, compelling him to address at least a dozen public meetings a day.

The senior Congress leader was busy on Saturday — the last day of campaigning — but managed to speak on polls and politics in between meetings.

There was a steady stream of visitors, poll managers and favour-seekers at Singh’s Sanda farmhouse in the morning. Dau Saheb, as he is popularly known, chalked out a schedule for himself and Rahul, trying to “cover as many places as we can”.

Singh admitted that the Congress’ chances of retaining power in Madhya Pradesh are not too bright. “But I understand that things have improved in the last few days. It is just possible that we form the government with the help of others,” he added. “As I see it, there is no wave. It is an issueless election,” said the veteran, adding that local factors could decide the winning candidate.

He clarified that he was only trying to “clear the air” when he regretted the inconvenience caused by frequent power cuts. “But it was misconstrued as an apology. I had not apologised but it caused some kind of controversy so I stopped saying that.”

The veteran’s first destination was Parkhuri, a Harijan-Patel-tribal dominated village of 1,200. Virtually the whole village turned out to hear Dau Saheb, but Singh was taking note of how many mud-houses have displayed the BSP’s elephant symbol.

He made a brief speech, recalling his “special bond” with the villagers, telling them: “We have been together in happiness and sorrow. Elections come and go but please maintain unity and harmony. Congress alone can protect that and accelerate the pace of development.”

“Terrorists are striking at will. From Kashmir to Advaniji’s Ahmedabad, even temples are not safe. Can you trust the BJP with national security'” he asked.

Singh said he had withdrawn from “active politics” and handed charge to Rahul.

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