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Millennium Post

In MP, it’s disadvantage congress

As has been happening since the first general elections, come polls and the various organised groups start mounting pressure on the governments to accept their demands – whether just or unjust. The same trend is visible in Madhya Pradesh, which goes to the polls in the month of November this year.

On 9 April, over seven lakh state government employees observed a day-long strike to press their demands. The strike was one hundred per cent successful. The success of the strike can be gauged by the fact that in many cases, Ministers and senior civil servants reached Vallabh Bhavan (state government Secretariat) driving their vehicles themselves.  Some ministers and officers hired private taxis to reach the Secretariat to attend the Cabinet meeting, scheduled on that day.

The employees displayed remarkable unity by forming a joint action committee. More than 19 unions joined the united front. After the successful day long strike, the front leaders warned that if their 51-point charter of demands was not accepted, they may proceed on an indefinite strike.

Government employees play a significant role in the general elections. It has been the experience that if the employees are not happy they have been instrumental in bringing about the defeat of the ruling party. This happened in 2003, when government employees resolved to vote out Digvijay Singh because of his hostile attitude towards them. On many occasions, Digvijay Singh made utterances that led to angry reaction of the employees. For example, he would say ‘I don’t care for the votes of employees’.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan will find it difficult to accept all the demands of the agitating employees. It has also been the experience that opposition invariably fishes in the troubled waters. So there is every possibility that the Congress will join forces with the employees unions.

Some of the demands of the employees include removal of anomalies in the implementation of the of sixth pay commission recommendations, regularisation of daily wage employees, uniformity in the age of retirement, payment of dearness allowance at the same rate and from the same date as Central government employees, abolition of professional tax and pension at par with the Central employees. Fulfillment of these and other demands will have very serious financial implications.

But what is a matter of relief for the state government is that the Congress, which happens to be the main opposition party, is not in a condition to take advantage of the discontent among the employees. The state Congress continues to be a divided house. This division took a very ugly turn when Ajay Singh, leader of the Opposition caused a sensation when he made the allegation that many leaders of the Congress happen to be the business partners of the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.

If must be noted that Ajay Singh made this allegation while addressing a very important meeting of party leaders. He claimed that those leaders of the party, who have business dealings with the ruling party leaders, are reluctant to expose the misdeeds and corrupt practices of the ruling party leaders and workers. In particular, they try to cover up illegal mining, which is being done on a large scale. In some of these illegal mining activities, Congress and BJP leaders are partners. Ajay Singh’s allegation assumes significance because sometime back, reports appeared in a section of the media alleging that some relations and members of personal staff of Pradesh Congress president Kantilal Bhuria have business links with influential BJP leaders. It may be mentioned here that Ajay Singh made the allegation in the presence of Kantilal Bhuria. Ajay Singh’s allegations indicate that the Congress is on a very weak turf.  Otherwise also, the party is already divided into several factions. Most of the party workers owe their loyalty to their respective leaders rather than to the party.

While the Congress Party does not appear to be united, the BJP too is not in very happy position. With the appointment of Uma Bharati and Prabhat Jha as national vice-presidents of the BJP, reports have appeared in a section of the press that important leaders of the party owing allegiance to the chief minister have started giving extra importance to Uma Bharati.

According to one such report, the party leaders who used to maintain distance from Uma Bharati are now trying to come close to her. It is observed that this is being done as part of a strategy to isolate Prabhat Jha, who is regarded as a greater threat to the Chief Minister.

During his presidentship of the state BJP, Prabhat Jha was able to build some sort of a base in the state. This is not the case with Uma Bharati, who was away from the state politics for almost eight years.

How this new scenario takes shape and how much it will affect the electoral prospects of the party may be known in the future but one thing is certain; that the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s position is no longer as unassailable as it was before. He now faces challenge from not only without but also within the party. (IPA)
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