Nomination row triggers violence in rival camps in Madhya Pradesh

Chaos prevailed in Congress and BJP offices across Madhya Pradesh as supporters and opponents of candidates for the November 25 Assembly elections resorted to picketing, burning of effigies and vandalism.

Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president Manak Agrawal quit his post on Wednesday night after he was denied ticket to contest from Hoshangabad. He accused senior leader Suresh Pachouri, a nominee from Bhojpur, of scuttling his candidature at the behest of a company involved in sand-mining with alleged links to the family of Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan.

Mr. Agrawal told reporters: “I had three illegal sand mines of the company closed down at Nasrullahganj, so the company paid a huge amount to Suresh Pachouri to scuttle my nomination. I have strengthened the party in Hoshangabad, but I have been denied ticket. Pachouri is a leader who plays politics of manipulation in Delhi.” Had Mr. Pachouri not sold ticket in 2008, the Congress would have won the elections, he said.

“I am quitting my post but not the party. I will neither join any other party, nor fight the election as an independent. I believe that justice will be done some day,” he said.

Party spokesman J.P. Dhanopia said Mr. Agrawal’s resignation was being examined by the leadership. “There is no attempt to mollify him as he has made serious allegations against a senior leader.”

In Agar, Congressman Narsingh Malviya committed suicide after he failed to secure nomination.

The PCC office witnessed protests on Wednesday by opponents of Harish Rathore, candidate from Sehore. They were joined by Congressmen from Bhopal, who suspected that two leaders, P.C. Sharma and Mahendra Chauhan, might be denied nomination. On Thursday, opponents of Silwani candidate Devendra Patel — a BJP MLA who defected recently — indulged in vandalism at the PCC office.

The BJP also faced the same problem on the issue of nominations, with its workers burning effigies of senior leaders in Shajapur and Indore. In Ratlam, several BJP local body representatives and office-bearers resigned en masse and hundreds of workers marched through the town to protest against the nomination of State treasurer Chetan Kashyap. The workers gathered around the home of the former Home Minister, Himmat Kothari, who agreed to contest as an Independent.

On Thursday night, unidentified men attacked the BJP headquarters and smashed the glass doors at the entrance. “This has not been done by BJP workers. Twelve or thirteen men came in four-wheelers and broke the glass with chairs. The police are investigating,” BJP assistant media in-charge Sanjay Khoche said.

A police source said the violence was the result of internal party rivalries. “A channel wrongly telecast that a sitting MLA from Bhopal was being replaced. Those who indulged in the violence may have been his supporters.”

Last week, Minister Dev Singh Saiyam resigned after his Mandla seat was allotted to district panchyat president Sampatia Uike. Mr. Saiyam declared his support for the Gondwana Gantantra Party, though he remains a BJP member.

BJP national vice-president and Rajya Sabha member Prabhat Jha told The Hindu that the rebels would be pacified and made to work for the party. “Dissent is normal when people are not nominated. These are committed BJP cadre.”

Congress MP Meenakshi Natarajan, a prominent face of the Rahul brigade, was gheraoed in the District Congress Committee office at Neemuch on Thursday afternoon by supporters of Rajkumar Ahir, a disappointed aspirant. “They calmed down after I met them one by one and told them that I would communicate their grievances to the leadership. These are all committed workers,” she said.

In Delhi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met with the party MPs from the State to assess the situation.

Political columnist Chandrakant Naidu attributed the abnormally high levels of aggression in this election to the hype around the polls. “This, in my memory, is the first suicide for ticket in the State. There is resistance to [Jyotiraditya Madhavrao] Scindia within the Congress which is creating confusion in the ticket distribution. The BJP, too, is under pressure to win for a third time, and there are leaders close to [Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra] Modi and others not fond of Shivraj who are instigating dissent. A third win for the party would definitely create a national space for Shivraj, which many are uncomfortable with,” he said.