Congress in poor shape in Madhya Pradesh

By Shahnawaz Akhtar, IANS
Sunday, November 21, 2010

BHOPAL - As the Madhya Pradesh assembly prepares to meet from Monday, Congress sources admit the party is losing its sting in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state.

The Congress, of course, is the second largest party in the legislature. However, Congress leaders admit it pains them that the BJP has been ruling Madhya Pradesh since 2003 after a 10-year Congress run.

Of the 230 assembly seats, the BJP with 144 members has a clear lead over the 69-member Congress. The Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), which has eaten into traditional Congress votes, has five members.

Congress sources say that their party’s role is dwindling in the state where it was the main political player for more than four decades.

Madhya Pradesh completed 54 years Nov 1, out of which 41 years saw the Congress in power. The BJP ruled it for 12 years and it was under President’s Rule for over eight months.

In the last seven years when the BJP was in power, popular sentiment has it that the Congress has turned visibly inactive in the state’s politics.

The opposition party is widely accused of becoming inactive vis-a-vis the BJP government both in the assembly and on the streets.

Even when former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief K.S. Sudarshan made derogatory remarks against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi recently, the Congress in the state did not react immediately.

Said political observer N.D. Sharma: “Sudarshan’s remarks had nothing to do with local politics. But the Congress protest began here only after other states.”

The Congress, said Sharma, has similarly missed out on several issues including the recent communal riots in Ratlam.

“On at least three occasions, even after the BJP leader in charge of Madhya Pradesh affairs, Ananth Kumar, slammed BJP ministers in the state, the Congress failed to expose them,” he added.

Congress activists say there is a reason for the lack of action: the absence of a credible leader who can take everyone along.

The former leader of the opposition, Jamua Devi, died Sep 24. The party has not yet filled the vaccum.

The search is still on for a state Congress president to replace Suresh Pachouri.

Madhya Pradesh has four frontline Congress leaders - former chief minister Digvijay Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Arun Yadav and Pachouri.

Apart from Pachouri, the other three are active more nationally than in state politics.

Digvijay Singh, a Congress general secretary who ruled the state for 10 consecutive years, said after his defeat in 2003 that he would not fight another election for 10 years.

He is not seen to be taking any interest in Madhya Pradesh politics.

Scindia, MP from Guna and central minister of state for commerce and industry, has not been seen taking on the Shivraj Singh government either.

Arun Yadav, MP from Khandwa and minister of state for heavy industry and public enterprises, also seems to be in no hurry to catch the BJP government on the wrong foot.

No wonder Shivraj Singh Chauhan is a happy man — and all set for Nov 29 when he will become the first BJP chief minister to complete five years in office in Madhya Pradesh.

The preparations for the celebration have begun and the BJP has decided to mark the day as “Karyakarta Gaurav Divas”.

Congress leaders, however, deny the party is a poor second to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

But Pachouri could not recall any issue on which the party took to the streets recently.

“We are planning something, but the programme is not decided yet,” he told IANS.

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