BJP forges ahead with party apparatus
As Congress still struggles to put its act together, Rakesh Singh’s appointment in Madhya Pradesh brings regional balance
Digvijay Singh's announcement of his entry into MP politics is expected to have a profound impact on politics in the state. He chose Indore to make the announcement in the presence of his wife Amrita and Rameshwar Neekhra, a very senior leader of Congress. Both of them were with Digvijay Singh throughout his six-month long Narmada parikrama.
Another important development in MP politics is the appointment of Rakesh Singh, three-time Lok Sabha member from Jabalpur, as the new state BJP president. Several names were in circulation for the new president, but nowhere did Rakesh Singh's name figure in the list. Thus he is a dark horse. His appointment came as a surprise to many, including top leaders of the party. Rakesh Singh hails from Mahakaushal and his appointment brings about regional balance.
Besides president, a core group has been constituted to oversee all the issues related to Vidhan Sabha elections. Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was not so long ago considered a top runner for the state chief's post, will be the coordinator of the election committee. He will be assisted by Faggan Singh Kulaste, MP from Mandla, minister for water resources Narottam Mishra and minister of state Lal Singh Arya, who will be the joint coordinators.
Union minister Thavar Chand Gehlot, Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, MP from Damoh Prahlad Patel, outgoing BJP state chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan, cabinet ministers Bhupendra Singh, Rajendra Shukla and Maya Singh have been appointed members of the committee. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rakesh Singh and BJP organisational general secretary Suhas Bhagat are special invitees.
Rakesh Singh's appointment as state BJP chief ensures there is no factional divide and orders from both the central leadership and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan are implemented with no questions asked. Earlier it was claimed that Rakesh Singh also belongs to the OBC community and for the first time both Chief Minister and state unit chief are from OBC. Later Rakesh Singh revealed that he is a Thakur and not OBC.
With not much fan following in the state BJP, Rakesh Singh has his feet on the ground. In his own words, "I don't believe that I can do everything alone. Team work is important and the energy of lakhs of party workers will help us reach the target in 2018 and 2019. Every BJP worker in each polling booth is Rakesh Singh, I don't know what I can achieve but I will leave no stone unturned".
Known for sharp diplomatic skills, CM Chouhan once again got what he wished for, be it by hook or by crook. Singh may have been appointed as the state president of BJP but it is Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Panchayati Raj Minister, who will convene the election management panel in the state.
This means that Tomar will once again lead the party in the upcoming Assembly elections. It was the duo of Tomar and Chouhan who had led the party to victory in last state polls. Rakesh Singh, who is also chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha, was put in the fray at the last moment after a consensus over names of Cabinet ministers Narottam Mishra, Rajendra Shukla and Bhupendra Singh couldn't be reached.
However, again it was Chouhan who got the upper hand by putting forward the equation of caste balance and Singh in place. Narottam Mishra, Rajendra Shukla and VD Sharma were in the fray. For Mishra and Sharma, the approach in party cadre didn't deem fit to many while Shukla is to get his share of penetration among the public.
Sources said it was RSS which finally settled the issue on the recommendations of Tomar. Rakesh Singh came out as the undisputed name on Tuesday and after the CM also pitched for him. The appointment of Singh could lead to fissures as messages of discontent were floating in social media as an upper caste candidate was not chosen. To curb discontent, Mishra was made co-convener of the poll committee. Rajendra Shukla and Maya Singh were made members. To balance out Dalit factor, Lal Singh Arya and Faggan Singh Kulaste were made co-conveners.
During this year's election, BJP will miss Anil Dave, who was considered to be a very competent and dynamic election manager. Dave who was made Minister of State in Modi Ministry died at a very premature age.
While BJP has set up elaborate election machinery, Congress is yet to make a headway in constituting a team to take care of election-related problems. Even now it is not clear who will be the chief campaigner of the Congress. While no decision has been made about the leadership of Madhya Pradesh Congress team, Digvijay Singh has announced that he is ready to energise the party machinery. Launching a blistering attack on Shivraj Singh Chouhan, he blamed the state government for nearly destroying Narmada, which is the lifeline of the state.
At the press meet at Indore, he challenged the Chief Minister to substantiate his claim that over six crore staples were planted on the bank of Narmada. He said that during his six-month long parikrama he could count not more than one lakh plants. Due to ruthless mining of Narmada by the sand mafia, the river has been destroyed, he said.
Digvijay Singh said that efforts would be to unite party men in the state. He has announced a unique programme to bring party men belonging to various factions on one platform. He named the programme as "pangat se sangat". Digvijay also indicated that he enjoys the blessings of Shankracharya Swami Swaroopanand. He disclosed that he undertook the Narmada parikrama on the direction of Swamiji, who was the chief guest at Barman where Digvijay terminated his parikrama.
Many people in light-hearted talk describe Swaroopanand as Congress Shankaracharya. Only a few days back former Union Minister Kamal Nath flew to seek Swami Swaroopanand's blessings. Kamal Nath's name is on the top of the list as the possible Congress nominee for Chief Ministership. Digvijy Singh has announced his "pangat se sangat" but it has to be seen how many factional leaders cooperate with him.
There are some influential Congress leaders who consider Digvijay Singh as the leader of a faction. In particular, Jyotiraditya Scindia looks at Digvijay Singh with suspicion. In fact, Scindia family has always treated Digvijay Singh as a rival. This was the case during the life of Madhav Rao Scindia, father of Jyotiraditya Scindia, as well. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal)