Utpal Borpujari

April 30, 2009

Protégé fronts Diggy Raja’s fight against younger brother

By Utpal Borpujari in Rajgarh (MP)

Narain Singh Amlabe, according to his election affidavit, is one of the poorer candidates in these general elections. As against numerous crorepatis, he owns just 22 cows, four buffaloes and a bullock cart, apart from Rs 305 and Rs 1,307 that are in his two bank accounts.


But if he had the services of a talented dialogue writer in the mould of the Salim-Javed duo, he would have perhaps told Laxman Singh, his BJP rival, “Lekin mere paas aapka bhai hai.”


Indeed, Amlabe, a protégé of AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, is facing off against Lakshman Singh, the sitting BJP MP from Rajgarh Parliamentary seat in Madhya Pradesh.


But in reality he is just a front for “Diggy Raja” who is shedding a lot of sweat to ensure his younger brother’s defeat in this battle of royal intrigue being played in the palace of erstwhile princely state of Raghogarh.


And the experienced former MP chief minister knows it is not going to be an easy task, especially since Lakshman Singh is taking advantage of the current BJP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s ongoing public goodwill.


Naturally, Digvijay Singh has chosen not to be coy about opposing his brother unlike Arjun Singh, another leader with “royal” blood, who took an ambivalent stand on the issue of his daughter Veena Singh contesting as an independent against the party candidate in Sidhi.


He also has not chosen to be politically savvy like the Gwalior royal family, whose members avoid contesting or attacking one another even while espousing diametrically-opposing political ideologies.


Singh is actively campaigning for Amlabe throughout the constituency, describing him as his “brother”, making it quite apparent that Laxman Singh, who is seeking his sixth entry to Lok Sabha, no more enjoys that privilege in public despite sharing blood lines.


He even tells the crowds that his brother deserted him at a time when the going was bad – just after the Assembly election drubbing in 2003.


The two brothers fell out when Lakshman Singh, known as “Chote Raja” or “Chunnu Raja”, left Congress just weeks before the 2004 General Elections and entered the 14th Lok Sabha as a BJP MP. Four times before that, he had represented Congress in the Lower House.


With Digvijay Singh having declared in 2003, after Congress lost the Assembly elections in MP, that he would not contest any election for ten years, it is Amlabe who has become his mascot in the fight against the younger brother.


Being a high-profile AICC leader, Diggy Raja has taken it as a matter of personal prestige that he delivers his home constituency to the party, though going by the scheme of things, his brother continues to have the upper hand in the area this time round too.


Amlabe, in his effort to project himself as a true son of the soil, as against the BJP candidate from the palace of Raghogarh, is even using a bullock cart to campaign, pointing out that he is one among the people while his opponent flies around in a chopper.


Lakshman Singh’s campaign has been quite high profile as compared to his, with senior BJP leaders, including the chief minister, holding meetings at various places in the constituency. Digvijay Singh, meanwhile, is criss-crossing the constituency, having held nearly 100 public meetings till now.


However, quite interestingly, the feuding brothers still share the palace in Raghogarh, and some cynics claim that their fight is only for public consumption. That is a matter of conjecture though, and for the time being, it is all about which brother will pull in the maximum number of votes.

(Pulished in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-04-2009)


Hockey hero fighting tough battle in Sagar

By Utpal Borpujari in Sagar (MP)


Aslam Sher Khan, one of the heroes of India’s only World Cup Hockey win way back in 1975, is fighting another battle now, and this time he has his back to the wall.


As the Congress’ only Muslim candidate in Madhya Pradesh, Khan, a former full back in the Indian hockey team, is not only fighting a tough battle against BJP’s Bhupendra Singh but also the tag of being an “outsider” in Sagar constituency.


Khan, from adjacent constituency Bhopal, would have been an ideal candidate from there – a fact that even BJP people admit – but thanks to rampant factionalism and infighting, he finds himself in the unfamiliar political terrain of Sagar.


To make matters worse for him, Sagar of late has been a BJP bastion, with the party’s Virendra Kumar having recorded a crushing win over Congress’ Uttam Khatik in the 2004 elections.


Quite naturally, Khan is sweating it out. In a region where temperatures are soaring and a heat wave is on, he is not having an easy time having to travel to remote corners of the constituency addressing election meetings.


What has made it tougher for Khan is the fact that BJP is fully amplifying his “outsider” status, even lampooning the fact that unlike Singh, a local businessman, Khan is staying at a hotel “since he does not have a home here”.


“He will be gone after the 30th (April 30 is the polling day here), while I will always be here,” Singh says in his election meetings.


To make matters worse of Khan, even local Congress workers are unhappy that the party did not give ticket to a “local”.


Though nobody would say it on record, party workers admit that there had been demonstrations by sections among themselves against the decision to field Khan from here.


Khan, who was a Union Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi regime but had later became disgruntled to join NCP and then BJP before returning to Congress, however, is exuding confidence. “I will win,” he says, dismissing the “outsider” tag as being a “BJP propaganda”.


He wants to bring in a sporting spirit in politics too. “All sports persons have a positive bent of mind. They play the game with team spirit, and that is something which is most required in political parties too. Moreover, because of their acceptance within large sections of the society, they can play a very constructive role in society building,” he says.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 29-04-2009)



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