| Sonia: Losing grip'
Bhopal, Oct. 16: Sonia Gandhi-appointed supervisor H. Hanumanthappa was roughed up today at a chaotic Madhya Pradesh Congress election, where party leaders traded the choicest abuses and one of them whipped out a pistol.
In full view of the state Congress leadership, the hapless Kannadiga leader had his kurta torn off as he got caught in a scuffle between rival factions loyal to former chief minister Digvijay Singh and the Union minister of state for personnel, Suresh Pachauri.
Hanumanthappa kept crying for peace, wondering why he was being attacked when he was trying to restore inner-party democracy. His appeals were ignored and the battle degenerated into a free for all.
The humiliated AICC supervisor left for Delhi, halting the poll process and swearing never to return to Bhopal.
Many recalled that another Kannadiga, Oscar Fernandes, was similarly humiliated many years ago when he was sent to Bihar as party poll supervisor. As Jagannath Mishra loyalists got into a brawl with the Tariq Anwar camp, Fernandes ' wearing a bush shirt and trousers ' sought to intervene.
“Who are you,” an angry mob had asked him. As the Congress leader replied “I am Oscar Fernandes”, he was shoved and manhandled even as someone from among the irritated crowd shouted: “Hindi mein bolo.”
Today, eyewitnesses said, a group of Congress leaders from Bhopal came to meet Hanumanthappa at the MLA guesthouse when elections for district Congress committees were in progress. Some 61 district-level party observers drawn from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, too, were present.
The visitors had a grouse: their local leader had been removed from the poll fray. Till then calm and in command, Hanumanthappa stepped forward to receive the delegation but, instead of handing over papers, someone in the group tried to buttonhole him.
As the supervisor shouted for help, another group pounced on the “attackers”. In the bedlam, a poll observer from Rajasthan pulled out a Chinese-made pistol to try and restore order. Later, Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Subhash Yadav blamed the media’s presence for the violence.
Hanumanthappa walked out in a huff and called up Yadav from the airport to tell him he was suspending the poll process in 14 districts. Seven of these districts, including Bhopal, witnessed violence during today’s organisational polls.
As a senior leader, Hanumanthappa should have known that the Madhya Pradesh Congress has a history of violence. A few years ago, a state general secretary had fired three bullets at a fellow general secretary for spreading salacious gossip about his mistress.
A couple of months ago, an angry mob had smashed furniture at the state Congress office and threatened to lynch Pachauri, who was, however, not present.
Senior leader Ajit Jogi recalled how he had escaped death when a Congress supporter hurled a country-made bomb at him at a party meeting. The bomb missed the target but Jogi ended up receiving several blows.
When Chhattisgarh was created in 2000, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh, had found himself a target of violence by partymen loyal to Vidya Charan Shukla.