Statesman News Service
BHOPAL, April 2. —– The Congress Party has decided to make Madhya Pradesh chief minister Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s entry into the state Assembly as difficult as possible.
Mr Chouhan, who became the chief minister of the state on 29 November last year, will be contesting from the Budni Assembly constituency in Sehore district on 24 April to become a legislator. Both, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mr Chouhan are confident of victory. The chief minister will be filing his nomination on Tuesday. The Congress, which is the main Opposition party in the state, has not yet declared its candidate but according to sources in the party, it is gearing up to give a tough fight to Mr Chouhan.
“The process of selecting a candidate will begin tomorrow. The national general secretary of the Congress Mr Narayam Sami, who is also in-charge of the affairs of the party in Madhya Pradesh, will be reaching here tomorrow for a day’s visit. He will be meeting several leaders from Budni,” Congress party’s spokesperson Mr Manak Agarwal told the Statesman.
A section of the Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh feels that former chief minister Mr Digvijay Singh should contest against Mr Chouhan so that the latter gets a taste of his own medicine. In the Assembly election held in 2003, Mr Chouhan, on being asking by the BJP had contested against Mr Singh from Raghaogarh constituency. Mr Singh hails from Raghaogarh and Mr Chouhan had given him a tough fight. But Mr Singh has decided to keep himself away from the state Assembly election and wants Mr Raj Kumar Patel to contest against Mr Chauhan.
Mr Patel, who has been the Congress candidate from Budni during several past elections, had unsuccessfully contested against Mr Rajendra Singh Rajput of the BJP in the Assembly elections held in 2003. Mr Rajput has resigned from his seat to make way for Mr Chouhan.
Confident of Mr Singh’s support, Mr Patel had approached expelled leader from the BJP, Ms Uma Bharti, for support. But Ms Bharti refused to support saying that she would not support a Congress candidate.
The same section of the leaders that want Mr Singh to contest against Mr Chouhan are against Mr Patel’s candidature. “Raj Kumar Patel will prove a very weak candidate against Mr Chouhan,” said a senior Congress leader of the state on condition of anonymity. “Rarely has a chief minister lost an election. Moreover, Mr Chouhan has already announced a lot of sops for Budni. Also, he has a strong caste following in the constituency. So we want to pit a stalwart against him,” he said.
Another name that has a strong backing of the Congress leaders is that of Mr Pratapbhanu Sharma, a former parliamentarian. A formidable leader of the Congress, Mr Sharma, earlier represented Vidisha constituency in the Parliament. In order to make things difficult for Mr Chouhan, the Congress has already sought the disqualification of Mr Chouhan from the president of India for holding office of profit. Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh, Jamuna Devi, recently gave a memorandum to President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam requesting disqualification of the chief minister, who is still a parliamentarian. In the memorandum, Jamuna Devi told the President that the chief minister also occupied the post of ex-officio chairman of Madhyam – a multi-purpose organisation involved in advertising, film production and publication.