Congress has received a big boost, with the sadhus and sants of Madhya Pradesh assuring the party of support. A delegation led by Mahendragiri Maharaj Dandewale and Mahant Ramdas paid a visit to PCC chief Kamal Nath at his residence on the day the Congress announced the launch of its poll campaign in the state. They blessed the former Union minister, who is leading the Congress onto the 2018 battlefield.
They also promised Nath that sadhus and sants would not only participate in the Congress’s ongoing Ram Van Gaman Path Yatra from Chitrakoot to Amarkantak in large numbers, but 20 lakh sadhus, sants and their disciples would also campaign for the party.
Speaking to reporters, Mahendragiri Maharaj Dangewale said that, if the Congress came to power and he was given charge of the state, he would successfully undertake construction of the Ram Van Gaman Path. “The BJP government acquired the land of monasteries, temples and gaushalas and now says only 10 acres will be given and the rest will be acquired by the state. We’re strongly against this,” he said.
Meanwhile, the election scene has turned frenetic, with the chiefs of both the Congress and the BJP visiting the state as part of their campaign. To demonstrate his “soft Hindutva” avatar, Rahul visited the holy Narmada and performed “aarti’ in the company of Kamal Nath and party campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia. Rahul and other Congress leaders also took an oath, administered by a schoolgirl, and pledged not to pollute or throw garbage into the Narmada ever in their lifetime. Later, the Congress president went on his roadshow through Jabalpur town. Before reaching Jabalpur, he addressed a huge rally comprising farmers, tribals and agricultural labourers at Morena, in Gwalior. Rahul accused the BJP of trying to scrap laws that protect the basic rights of farmers and tribals. He also addressed a march organised by the Ekta Parishad.
While BJP president Amit Shah toured the Madhya Bharat region, Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched the party’s campaign in Jabalpur, which is regarded as the political capital of Mahakaushal.
In another corner of the state, BJP president Amit Shah addressed several public meetings. In a blistering attack on the Congress, he asked Rahul to give account of four generations of his family. “Gandhi asks us (BJP) to give an account of the work done in the past four and a half years of BJP rule. We don’t need to give you an answer, but the people of this country want you to give an account of the work your family did over four generations,” Shah told a meeting of party workers at Dussehra Maidan.
Launching the BJP’s Mahasampark (mass contact) campaign in the Malwa-Nimad region, Shah tore into the Congress’s top trio of Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh, saying the 2018 Assembly elections are a battle between “king, corporate and Mr Bantadhar”. But the meeting in Indore caused the police great anxiety. There were reports that a massive attempt will be made to disrupt Shah’s public meeting. In view of this likely threat, the police took special precautions to avert an anti-Shah show and kept away protesters from the venue. The police arrested over 50 members of the Sawarn Samaj (upper caste community).
Meanwhile, an unprecedented confrontation has developed between the Election Commission and the Congress. The commission has challenged allegations by the Congress about the voters’ list and told the Supreme Court it was ready for an inquiry to expose the Congress. The commission also stated that the voters’ list had been corrected in June, itself. The court reserved its verdict on petitions from Congress party chiefs of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
EC counsel Vikas Singh told a Bench of justice AK Sikri and justice Ashok Bhushan that the EC had received a representation from the Congress about bogus voters on June 3 and the party was informed by June 9 that the problem has been rectified. “On July 31, the draft electoral rolls were published and the necessary corrections made as the software employed detects similarity between two voters for the officials to take necessary action after ground level verification,” he said. “Despite the voters’ list being corrected, the Congress continues to peddle mistakes in earlier lists and attempts to discredit a statutory organisation, which has earned impeccable reputation for conducting free and fair elections, This is nothing but using forged documents to scandalise the Election Commission,” Singh said.
Appearing for Kamal Nath and Sachin Pilot, senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha pointed out that the same photograph was being used for 36 voters in just one booth and attempted to use the voters’ list to show a large number of bogus voters in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. “We want a CBI inquiry into duplicate voters and fix responsibility on EC officials who have indulged in creation of these bogus voters. Who’s the EC working for? We alleged that there are 60 lakh bogus voters. EC says it has deleted 24 lakh such voters. We want an inquiry,” Sibal said.
(The author is a senior journalist)