ndsharma's blog

Renegades return home

Posted on: April 25, 2013

Two renegades returned to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh within a span of two months. Both are likely to affect the prospects of the Congress in the Assembly elections, due in November, but in their own ways. Digvijaya Singh’s younger brother, Laxman Singh, formally re-joined the Congress in mid-January at the AICC headquarters in Delhi and later visited the PCC office in Bhopal where he was received by the top leadership of the party. Arjun Singh’s daughter, Veena Singh, drove to the party office in Bhopal in the first week of March to report to some low rung staffers that she is back in the Congress. Almost all the party leaders (including her brother Ajay Singh who is the Leader of Opposition) had made it a point to keep away from the party office at the time of her arrival.

Mercurial Laxman Singh quit the Congress after Digvijaya Singh lost power in 2003. He joined the BJP in 2004 to contest, and win, the Lok Sabha election from his traditional constituency of Rajgarh. The reason for his leaving the Congress, he had told this reporter, was that he had felt uneasy the day Sonia Gandhi came to the Central Hall of Parliament (he was first elected to Lok Sabha in a by-election in 1994) and Arjun Singh or someone said that she was now the president of the Congress. A handful of persons had decided to make her the party president without even consulting others. Laxman said he had told his brother (Digvijaya) that this was not the way to elect the party president. “I’ll try to bring him (Digvijaya Singh) also on to the right track”, he had added.

His victory as the BJP candidate was attributed by Digvijaya Singh’s detractors to his machinations. The PCC had recommended the name of Devendra Singh Raghuvanshi who had been elected to the State Assembly twice from Chachaura constituency, which formed part of the Rajgarh Lok Sabha constituency. Digvijaya Singh, however, persuaded the Congress high command to get his nominee, Shambhu Singh, fielded from Rajgarh and had promised to the party leadership that he would work hard to ensure the defeat of his brother. A former High Court judge, Shambhu Singh was the Chairman of the Industrial Tribunal at Indore and a novice in politics. He was prevailed upon by Digvijaya Singh to resign and contest against his brother. Shambhu Singh suffered an abominable defeat and had blamed Digvijaya Singh for taking him in. In 2009, however, Digvijaya Singh must have worked to ensure Laxman Singh’s defeat because his integrity was being openly questioned at that time – and not only for “engineering” Laxman Singh’s victory in 2004.

Defeated in 2009, Laxman Singh soon fell out with BJP president Nitin Gadkari over some remark of the latter. Now he started feeling suffocation in the BJP and yearned for some fresh air in Sonia Gandhi’s party. Digvijaya Singh, with his proximity to Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, did the spade work for his return to the Congress. He is definitely likely to contest for the Lok Sabha but from where he or his elder brother have not yet revealed. His old constituency of Rajgarh had elected in 2009 a long-time Congressman and loyalist of the Digvijaya Singh family and dislodging him for a turncoat may not go well with the electorate.

With Veena Singh it’s a different case. She did not leave the Congress but was expelled for contesting as an independent against the official Congress candidate from Sidhi Lok Sabha constituency in 2009. She was, in fact, the victim of Arjun Singh’s political miscalculation. She had not been really that active politically. Arjun Singh, however, wanted to see her in Lok Sabha in his last days. His request for the ticket to Veena was turned downed by the Congress. He encouraged her to file as an independent which she did on the last day of filing the nominations. Arjun Singh still hoped that he would be able to manage the things for her. He shed copious tears in front of the television cameras virtually pleading to Sonia Gandhi to instruct Congress candidate Indrajeet Kumar Patel to step down in favour of Veena Singh. Patel was also like a household member for Arjun Singh but he had had “enough” already — MLA for seven times and minister in the Digvijaya Singh government, besides many other important positions during the Arjun Singh, Motilal Vora and Digvijaya Singh regimes.

Arjun Singh’s desperation

Arjun Singh had virtually made it “either you support Veena Singh or you are enemy” in Sidhi where he had reigned as the tallest leader for decades. The list of the “enemies” included once his favourite son, Ajay Singh. As Minister of Human Resource Development, Arjun Singh had appointed Mahendra Singh Chauhan as chairman of the Bhopal-based Technical Teachers’ Training Institute (TTTI). A life-long loyalist of the Arjun Singh family, Chauhan could not reconcile himself to campaigning against the Congress, particularly when Ajay Singh was working for the Congress. The first decision Arjun Singh took after the election results were announced (and Veena had lost) was to remove Chauhan from the post of the chairman. No one expected Veena Singh to win but she had garnered, mainly through Arjun Singh’s efforts, enough votes to ensure the defeat of the Congress candidate who was, otherwise, well placed. Veena was expelled from the Congress.

Both Veena Singh and Laxman Singh are autocratic in one way or the other with the difference that Veena has never been known to take up cudgels for a public cause. Laxman Singh, for instance, would lose his temper (which he frequently does) when he saw a doctor in a hospital not attending to the patients and would even slap the doctor. His strong feelings and his hyper-activism have made him a dearly loved or acutely hated person in the area. Veena Singh is known, on the other hand, as only Arjun Singh’s daughter.

While Laxman Singh is expected to help Congress prospects, provided Congress is able to stop its incessant infighting, in the Rajgarh-Guna area, the same cannot be said of Veena Singh unless and until she reconciles with her younger brother Ajay Singh and the Congress workers who had been at the receiving end as long as her father was alive. That, though, does not seem to be in Veena Singh’s nature.


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April 2013
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Outright Perilous!

An egoist as the head of the government is bad enough. An egotist is a nuisance as his constant chant of I…, I…., I….. jars on the listeners’ years. But when he loses touch with the reality and starts believing his imaginary achievements to be his real achievements, that’s outright perilous.

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