‘Leaderless’ Congress provides free field to Chauhan
Posted March 8, 2011on:
If chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan can get away with his glib lies, sometimes sickening, on issues of vital public importance, the credit should largely go to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her close advisors who have kept the Congress in Madhya Pradesh in perpetual limbo for quite some time. Congress is the main Opposition party in the State Assembly but it has been without the Leader of Opposition for about a year. Jamuna Devi died in September last year; the octogenarian tribal leader had been ill and in hospital for several months before that.
Uncertainty has been allowed to prevail in respect of PCC president also. Suresh Pachauri, with his known aversion for all other leaders in the State party, has made a significant contribution to prevent the Congress from becoming a vibrant organisation ever ready to take up the people’s grievances. Still, Delhi has not made it clear whether it wants Pachauri to continue or make a change, with the result that every now and then the names of next PCC presidents are being floated. Not long ago, a tribal leader of Dhar district had in fact started receiving congratulatory messages for having been chosen Pachauri’s successor.
The virtually “leaderless” Congress could hardly be expected to play the role of an effective Opposition to counter Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s harangues in the Assembly when he reeled out the figures of farmers’ suicides during the Congress government of Digvijay Singh. No doubt, the farmers were in a pretty bad shape in the State during the Congress regime. But was not that one of the main issues raked up by the BJP in its election campaign in 2003 with the promise of redressing the farmers’ grievances on priority basis if the BJP came to power?
Even if the first two years of the BJP rule are left out (as endorsed by the party leadership by celebrating “Gaurav Divas” in November last year on completion of five years of Chauhan’s regime), the Chauhan government had ample time of five years to undo the “injustices” done to the farmers in ten years of the Congress rule (and possibly two years of Uma Bharati-Babulal Gaur governments). All that he had done was to make promises, more promises and then more promises with no obvious intention of acting on them.
Soon after becoming the chief minister, Chauhan had convened at the chief minister’s residence a Kisan panchayat where he had made dozens of promises including the one to change the laws and rules and revise the revenue code to provide better relief to the farmers during a calamity such as witnessed recently following the cold wave spell. The promises were repeated at every conceivable occasion. Just before the 2008 Assembly elections, some new promises were added: among them, the loans of the farmers up to Rs 50,000 will be waived, and subsidy will be given to farmers for purchase of generators of up to 10 HP for irrigation. As he did not show any intention of fulfilling any of his promises after he was sworn in for the second time, he was mobbed a few months later by the farmers owing allegiance to his own party’s Kisan Sangh and reminded of his promises. He had to be rescued by his security personnel.
When the recent spate of suicides by the cold wave/frost affected farmers started, Chauhan was taken off guard – but only momentarily. First he tried to blame it, with the help of the servile IAS officers in the field, on reasons other than the damage to their crops. But soon he recovered and started blaming the Centre for not releasing enough funds to help the farmers. Propelled by State BJP president Prabhat Jha, he had announced his decision to undertake hunger strike against the Centre’s “step-motherly” attitude. He was, though, dissuaded by Governor Rameshwar Thakur, with a strict warning, from resorting to this unconstitutional method. The Governor had, reportedly at Chauhan’s request, provided him a face saving device by arranging a phone call from the Prime Minister.
The funds already released by the Centre have not been fully utilised by the Madhya Pradesh government — and not only in the agriculture sector. The relief amounts being given to the farmers affected by the recent cold wave in no way commensurate with the damage to the crops and the lofty announcements being made by the chief minister. The farmers at several places have found the cheques for meagre amounts as insulting and angrily returned these to the government functionaries on the spot. In about three months, 89 farmers and 47 agricultural labourers had committed suicide in the State, most of them in the tribal areas. This figure was given by home minister Uma Shankar Gupta in reply to a question by Congress member Ramniwas Rawat in the current session of the Assembly.
The Opposition’s adjournment motion on the farmers’ suicides was debated in the Assembly but it only provided an opportunity to Chauhan to make some more promises and brag about what he wants the people to believe that he has done for the farmers and also utter some irrelevancies (such as “kaun mai ka lal hai jo meri sarkar ko gira de”). A lack of cohesiveness in the Congress ranks to effectively take on Chauhan’s bluffs was palpable.