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It's brother vs brother in Rajgarh

By Parikshit Joshi in Rajgarh
May 08, 2004 20:27 IST
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Blood is thinner than ideology. It is brother versus brother in the Rajgarh Lok Sabha constituency of Madhya Pradesh. One is a contestant; the other is campaigning against him.

The outcome of the electoral battle, which he is not contesting, would certainly have some ramifications for the political future of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

The wily raja of Raghogarh knows it. That is why Singh is leaving no stone unturned in his campaign against younger brother Laxman Singh, who is contesting the seat on a BJP ticket after defecting from the Congress.

The former chief minister, who had a record ten-year stint in the country's second largest state, is camping in Rajgarh, canvassing for retired Justice Shambhu Singh, a political greenhorn testing the electoral waters on a Congress ticket.

Though Laxman Singh has retained this seat on four occasions for the Congress since a 1994 by-election, it appears an uphill task for him to convince voters about his change of loyalty and blunt the resentment among the BJP's rank and file.

Irked by the BJP's decision to field Laxman Singh, Ashok Tripathi, co-ordinator of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch's Madhya Pradesh unit, also took the plunge, sending jitters through the former's camp.

Tripathi, who claimed to have the support of Sangh Parivar outfits, ultimately backed out, but his wife Vinita is still among the 11 candidates left in the fray.

A local BJP office-bearer admitted that initially there was resentment against Laxman Singh's candidature, but claimed that everything had been sorted out.

Even Tripathi is out of race and everybody in the BJP and the Sangh Parivar is actively working for Laxman Singh, Badriprasad Gupta, who is overseeing the party's campaign, said.

The BJP may have accepted Laxman Singh, but his elder brother is appealing to voters not to support "a person who deserts even his own brother".

"After I lost power, my brother left me... Jo apne bhai ka na ho saka, woh logon ka kya hoga?" says 'Diggy Raja' in his emotional speeches.

It appears to be having some effect on voters. Ramniwas Pandey, a labourer, referring to the Congress party's defeat in last year's assembly election, said, "Raja [Digvijay] ko galtiyon ki saja to ho chuki hai."

But Laxman Singh, justifying his switch, claimed that Sonia Gandhi's decision to have an electoral truck with M Karunanidhi's DMK, the party once accused of backing the killers of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, had prompted him to quit the Congress.

Laxman Singh also does not miss an opportunity to wax eloquent on the achievements of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and assures the all-round development of Rajgarh.

In an election where fraternal relations have become the talking point, Congress nominee Shambhu Singh is also seeking votes for Digvijay Singh's prestige. "Agar meri haar hui to Digvijay Singhji ki naak kat jaayegi [My defeat will mean a loss of face for Digvijay Singh]," he is telling voters.

Of the total eight assembly segments in Rajgarh parliamentary constituency, five are with the BJP while the rest are with the Congress, including Raghogarh, which is represented by Digvijay Singh himself.

Interestingly, the nominees of the erstwhile Jan Sangh and the Janata Party, which have held this seat on four occasions since 1967, were all from outside Madhya Pradesh.

Digvijay Singh wrested the seat from the BJP in 1984. He lost to the saffron party's Pyarelal Khandelwal in 1989, but avenged his defeat two years later. Since 1994, his brother Laxman Singh kept the seat with the Congress, defeating in succession Khandelwal, Kailash Joshi, and television 'Krishna' Nitish Bharadwaj.

The constituency, which houses the famous Narsinghgarh wildlife sanctuary, has more than 12 lakh voters.

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Parikshit Joshi in Rajgarh
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