How Congress failed to adopt 'Gujarat model' in Madhya Pradesh

Despite verbal assurances to whistleblowers like Paras Saklecha and Dr Anand Rai, the Congress didn't give them party tickets.

 |  4-minute read |   15-11-2018
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Congress president Rahul Gandhi failed to adopt a “Gujarat model” for Madhya Pradesh ahead of the Assembly polls in the state.

For the past one year, the central and state Congress leadership have inducted a number of otherwise apolitical activists — anti-corruption crusaders, whistleblowers, rights activists and farmer leaders — with deep roots in society. The idea was to replicate Congress’ Gujarat experiment where the party had electorally benefitted from the presence of Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakore and others to put up a credible fight in Gujarat Assembly polls last year.

madasaur_111418043403.jpgRahul Gandhi on his way to Mandsaur back in 2017. (Credit: Twitter/INC India)

Several leading Vyapam scam whistleblowers like Paras Saklecha and Dr Anand Rai were reportedly given verbal assurances by Congress' central leadership but their names did not figure in the final list of party nominees. Rai, who has resigned from the post of a government medical officer, can barely hide his disappointment.

“We were told about contesting polls until the very last moment. Then we were told that we are newcomers in the party... We do not have requisite 'resources'. This has left a somewhat bitter taste,” Rai told DailyO over the phone.

Debashish Jarariya, a promising young Dalit activist and a regular with prime time TV news channels switched over from the BSP to the Congress, but didn't get a ticket to contest the upcoming polls.

Indore-based Rai’s pressure group, Vichar MP, had brought together many activists working in diverse fields such as health, nutrition, drive against sand mafia, right to information and issues relating to farmers. Paras Saklecha, another anti-corruption crusader, was aspiring for a ticket from Ratlam but the former independent MLA failed to make the cut. The politician in Saklecha is making politically correct noises insisting that he would continue to work for the Congress "relentlessly". Saklecha had won from Ratlam in 2008 as an independent candidate.

anand-rai_111418050040.jpgAnand Rai, the the Vyapam scam whistleblower. (Credit: Twitter)

Kedar Sirohi, an influential farmer leader who recently joined the Congress, said he is not disheartened by the denial of ticket. Sirohi said his sole objective has been to drive the BJP out of Madhya Pradesh. Sirohi, chief of the Aam Kisan Union, is an MSc in agricultural economics and farm management from the Jabalpur-based Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi University. Until a year ago, Sirohi was fiercely opposed to both the BJP and the Congress. He was seen as a key figure who mobilised the farmers' stir in Malwa and Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh during June 2017 in eight persons were killed in police firing.

Sirohi has a huge network of graduates from agriculture universities across the state, which has failed to provide them with employment. As per an estimate by senior police officers, the Mandsaur protests had a sizeable number of smartphone-owning protesters, in the age group of 16-30 years who were quick to tweet, WhatsApp and post on Facebook. The use of social media had prompted the Shivraj Singh Chouhan administration to block internet services in June 2017 in the troubled zones of Mandsaur, Ujjain, Ratlam, Neemuch and Dhar.

paras_111418050059.jpgParas Saklecha, an anti-corruption crusader, was aspiring for a Congress ticket from Ratlam. (Credit: ANI/Twitter)

Akshay Hunka, head of Madhya Pradesh Berojgar Sena, claims to have many young followers but his effort to contest from Bhopal’s Govindpura seat came to a naught as he did not get a ticket. Hunka had led a movement against Chouhan’s decision to raise the retirement age of government employees from 60 to 62.

Vinayak Parihar from Narsinghpur had recently joined the Congress after leading an effective campaign over alleged irregularities in purchase of wheat. DP Thakad had took on state panchayti raj officials alleging wrongdoings in the panchayati raj department, but his demand for a Congress ticket has been overlooked. Meena Korav from Gadarwada had led a delegation of 150 sarpanchs to get them inducted into the grand old party. She insists that an assurance for ticket was given, but not fulfilled.

Arjun Arya from chief minister Chouhan’s Budhni constituency left the Samajwadi Party to join the Congress after getting jailed in farmers agitation. He was reportedly promised a ticket by Digvijaya Singh but later the former state chief minister excused himself.

Girja Shankar Sharma, brother of state Assembly speaker Sitasharan Sharma, too was waiting for a Congress ticket. He had been a former BJP MLA and considered an influential figure in Hoshangabad region of the state.

Sources close to Madhya Pradesh Congress unit chief Kamal Nath say while he sympathised with most activists, the party could not have accommodated so many "outsiders". Nath has reportedly put the blame on the AICC in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Deepak Bawariya, who had reportedly gone on a spree promising tickets to all those knocking at the Congress door. Bawariya hails from Gujarat and is perceived to be close to Rahul Gandhi.

Last heard, these disgruntled leaders have been promised berths in state-run boards and corporations if the Congress gets voted to power in Madhya Pradesh.

In response, they would perhaps want to sing, "Kaun jiitā hai tirī zulf ke sar hone tak..."

Also read: Why a full-blown Modi-RSS Vs Rahul Gandhi and the rest in 2019 will be disastrous for India


Rasheed Kidwai Rasheed Kidwai @rasheedkidwai

Journalist-author Rasheed Kidwai is a visiting fellow of ORF]

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