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Updated: March 31, 2014 02:24 IST

All hands on deck in M.P. Congress

Pheroze L. Vincent
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In the faction-ridden Congress in Madhya Pradesh, white flags are aloft. To prevent sabotage from within, party leaders have reached a truce.

Party functionaries and workers told The Hindu that the fear of a washout in the State had led to the working out of a no-sabotage pact in most constituencies, though some denied the ticket remain outliers.

In the 2004 election, the Congress could win just four of the 29 seats in the State. The party, however, regained ground in 2009, winning 12. But leaders worry that the State may go the Gujarat way.

“We [The Congress] won 11of the 26 seats there [Gujarat] last time. But it doesn’t matter because when you cross the border, you will understand how the BJP calls the shots there. The party runs everything in that State,” a leader in Indore says. “We’ve now closed our eyes to whether we love or hate a candidate. If we keep thinking of whether he is a Digvijaya [Singh] or a [Jyotiraditya] Scindia man, then no one can win.”

The party has traditionally had several factions. At present, they are led by the former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, the former Minister Ajay Singh and the former Pradesh Congress Committee chief Kantilal Bhuria on one side and the Union Ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath and the former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri on the other. An effective yet underrated group is led by PCC chief Arun Yadav. Mr. Pachouri has stayed clear of politics after his defeat in the Assembly election in 2013.

A few shocks

The Congress has borne a few shocks during candidate selection. The worst was the defection of its Bhind candidate, Bhagirath Prasad, to the BJP to stand as its candidate in the constituency. Mr. Prasad, a former Home Secretary, was tipped to head the Congress Dalit Cell in the State. On leaving the party, he said a king, a hint at Mr. Scindia, would have sabotaged his chances had he stood as a Congress candidate.

Before the Assembly election, Rao Uday Pratap Singh, Hoshangabad MP, defected to the BJP and is contesting on the party ticket this time.

Sanjay Pathak, Vijayraghavgarh MLA, has vacated his seat in protest against the fielding of Raja Pateria in Khajuraho. Mr. Pateria has been taking up the cause of workers in Mr. Pathak’s mines.

Arif Aqeel, North Bhopal MLA, the lone Muslim legislator of the party, has opposed the fielding of P.C. Sharma in the Bhopal constituency.

Party leaders, however, insist that these are exceptions. “Arif may not be campaigning for Sharma, but he is also not doing anything to support the Samajwadi Party candidate [Sheeba Malik]. The party has done the candidate selection well and seven to 10 seats can be easily won. There is a good fight in 15 others,” the former Minister Aslam Sher Khan, a strong critic of factionalism, says.

“Candidates new to their seats, like Ajay Singh in Satna and Vivek Tankha in Jabalpur, may rely on their own people to manage booths rather than local party workers, but that happens in every party.”

A prominent youth leader says, “We’ve been told to be quiet even if we have problems within the party. The local body elections are coming up in December and lobbying for ticket has already begun. No one wants to lose their chances by trying to sabotage a candidate’s chance when they have nothing to gain personally.”

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