Billed as an ideological battle, the emphatic victory of political novice Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal has demolished former chief minister Digvijaya Singh’s plans of returning to active politics in Madhya Pradesh.
After the debacle of the Congress in the 2003 Assembly polls, the senior Congress leader had vowed not to contest any election for 10 years. When he finally decided to take the plunge again, with the Lok Sabha, he wanted to contest from Rajgarh, his home turf, but in clever manoeuvring by Chief Minister Kamal Nath, a rival in state politics, Digvijaya found himself in contest from Bhopal, one of the safest BJP seats in the state.
After Assembly win, the defeat
WHILE the Congress fared badly nationally, its drubbing in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh -- three states where it had won five months ago -- compounded its defeat. All the three states had announced waiver of farm loans, as promised by Rahul Gandhi during the election campaign. There were other sops which were on the anvil. There were seasoned and experienced leaders at the helm in at least two states -- Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The verdict, despite all this, underlines the challenges ahead, especially in Madhya Pradesh where the Congress does not have majority on its own.
“Even an ordinary worker can defeat Singh in Bhopal,” former CM Uma Bharti had said before the BJP announced the candidature of the Malegaon blast case accused.
Her remark that Godse is, was, and will be a patriot got the Prime Minister to say that he “could not forgive her from his heart”.
But that hardly helped Digvijaya. He probably visited more temples than Pragya, fed roti to a cow, and was escorted by sadhus during a march.
His campaign also appeared to be organised and systematic unlike the chaos surrounding Pragya’s initial efforts, before the RSS took over the reins. In between, she had to endure a 72-hour ban on campaigning due to her controversial statements. She used the break to visit temples and sing bhajans in the glare of TV cameras. Just three days before the campaign ended, she released a patchy vision document in stark contrast to the one unveiled by the Congress leader.
None of this appears to have helped Digvijaya live down the BJP’s projection of him as anti-Hindu and pro-minority.