By Utpal Borpujari in Bhopal
But did he really? Or did blood ultimately proved to be thicker than political affiliations for the wily old Thakur of Rewa? These are the questions that are needling Congress workers and supporters alike in Madhya Pradesh, even as voters have made their choice during the polling in the constituency on Thursday.
In what could be his final battle of wits with his own party, Arjun Singh spoke barely audibly in his brief address, after arriving at the venue in Sidhi travelling by train and car – which immediately fuelled speculation that his party once again spited him by not providing him with a chopper to fly in.
He never mentioned Patel during his speech, and in what is being seen as a subtle message to voters, his grandson Aishwarya – son of his daughter Veena Singh, the rebel independent candidate – and grand-daughter-in-law Devyani were on his side.
Both Aishwarya and Devyani have been aggressively campaigning for Veena Singh. And as if to drive home the point, Arjun Singh then chose to spend his remaining time in Sidhi at Veena Singh’s residence.
This was even as Arjun Singh’s son and Churhat MLA Ajeya Singh has been campaigning for Patel and been vocal against his sister’s decision to contest as an independent.
That the family is facing an internecine squabble on the issue became apparent when Ajeya said in his father’s presence that his sister’s move has led to a “crisis in the family” and led to a “spiritual dilemma” for Arjun Singh’s supporters.
Arjun Singh, during his speech at Sidhi, once again invoked the sentiment of his growing old, though this time he did not shed tears like he had done in Ballia in UP sometime back. He also did not talk of the “humiliation” that he had faced from his party like he had done on Monday.
Instead, he said he was unable to speak much because he was unwell and was in “pain”, and promised that he would return to speak once he recuperated.
The man who must be chuckling amidst all this is BJP candidate Govind Mishra, who is surely hoping that amidst the confusion among Congress supporters regarding whether to vote for the official party candidate or the rebel daughter of their ageing leader, he would scrape through.
If he does, it would not be a surprise, since in 2004 too, BJP had won the seat, though none from Arjun Singh’s family was in the race then from there.
Meanwhile, Veena Singh is sitting smug that she did the right thing. “There is no dilemma in the voters minds…even if my brother had been given the ticket I would not have taken this step. After so many years of the service put in by our father, someone in Delhi decided that neither of us can win from here and denied us the ticket,” she says.
It is a historical irony that Arjun Singh, who had contested then as an independent because Jawaharlal Nehru had expelled his father from the party, is now caught in a dilemma over openly supporting his daughter, who during the campaign process said she had decided to contest as an independent because of the treatment Congress had meted out to her father by not giving a ticket to either of his children.
But one thing seems to be clear – once the results come in on May 16, Arjun Singh’s 52-year political career, that begain in 1957 when he had entered the state Assembly as a 27-year-old independent candidate, might finally see his own machinations catch up with him.