Chants of ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ and a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi in the background were the only things common to the recent 28-hour fast by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the ongoing 72-hour satyagraha by his Congress challenger Jyotiraditya Scindia, both in Bhopal. The unrest among farmers, the core constituency in Madhya Pradesh, has got Chouhan, 58, trying to reestablish his kisan purta credentials, and Scindia, 46, whom the BJP derides as a maharaja far removed from ground realities, trying to build an image ahead of the 2018 assembly elections.
The Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha cut short his foreign visit and announced a satyagraha in Bhopal. The summer heat is still unbearable but the Congress satyagraha venue has no coolers, unlike the ground where the CM held his fast, which had many. Also Read: Two farmers commit suicide in Madhya Pradesh, 6 deaths in 3 days now
On the first day of the satyagraha, announcers said they knew farmers were inconvenienced by the lack of coolers and promised to install a few the next day, only to be countered by many in the audience that they would rather go without them. The speakers mocked the “seven-star” or “five-star” facilities at the CM’s venue. The bed used by Scindia to sleep was modest in comparison to the one in the CM’s tent. While the CM was accompanied by his wife, Scindia was not.
Chouhan has often visited farms after natural calamities to comfort farmers. Calling it ola paryatan (hail tourism), the Congress has asked why he did not visit Mandsaur after firing led to deaths.
Scindia, however, had to battle his own image problem as the audience tried to click selfies with him or touch his feet and many speakers referred to him as Maharaja. “Please don’t use ‘Maharaja’; he does not like it,” announced former MLA Govind Rajput after a speech by a leader. “Kya kare, hamari bhasha hai (what can we do, it’s our language),” said a later speaker, repeating the honorifics.
Since Wednesday night, WhatsApp messages have gone into circulation alleging that ‘Maharaja’ has left the venue and insinuating that he gone to a heritage hotel. It was announced from the stage that reporters of national TV rushed to the venue to find Scindia chatting with farmers at 2 am. For its part, the Congress fielded a young speaker who mocked the CM’s style of speaking.
Someone calculated that the CM met one farmers’ delegation every 38 seconds, wondering what he absorbed in that brief period. Scindia, meanwhile, was seen accepting memorandums from visitors and promising them to meet them all in the evening.
Some relatives of the firing victims had come to Bhopal from near Mandsaur to “appeal to the CM to call off his fast”. Denied an opportunity to meet these relatives, the Congress leaders ensured their venue had garlanded portraits of the six victims.
“Kisano ko nyay ke liye Congress ka shankhnaad (sounding the conch to ensure justice for farmers),” reads the backdrop to the Congress venue. The BJP tried to counter it with hoardings in Bhopal to compare its achievements in agriculture between 2003, when it came to power, and 2017, more than 11 of those 13 years being Chouhan’s tenure.
Farmer kills himself
A farmer committed suicide in Chalplasar village of Hoshangabad district Wednesday. Narmada Prasad Yadav, 50, consumed poison near Hoshangabad bus stand. His brother police alleged a moneylender had insisted on repayment of the remainder of a Rs 50,000 loan. He said he had accompanied Narmada to sell 12 quintals moong and alleged that the moneylender forcibly took him away and made him mortgage a tractor, leading to the suicide. In-charge SP (Hoshangabad) Kumar Saurabh said the death is being investigated and added that bystanders had reported a dispute between the two brothers over mortgaging the tractor and that Narmada was against it.