MP polls: Pachouri in Patwa pocket borough- Personality versus legacy

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MP: Pachouri in Patwa pocket borough
Bhojpur, Nov 21: Faction-ridden Congress in MP has shied away from naming its chief ministerial candidate but for Congress supporters in this assembly segment, former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri is the candidate for the top post in the state.

Congress supporters believe or at least want the voters of the area to believe that if Pachouri wins the seat and the party wins the election, he could well become Chief Minister of the state. Pachouri, however, has never made any such claim during his campaigns.

"Since it is the first time that the Congress has fielded such a senior leader from the seat, the cadres are enthused.  Why can't he become Chief Minister if Congress forms a government in the state. Pachouri is one of the most senior leaders in the state. We are telling people in our door-to-door campaign that this time, they are electing not only an MLA but a future Chief Minister," says Nagar President of Obdullaganj Kamlesh Yadav.

Call it just another poll gimmick or election strategy but the election machinery of Suresh Pachouri is spreading this word in the BJP bastion Bhojpur, which was earlier represented by former Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa and now his nephew Surendra Patwa. Patwas have won the seat for last three decades. In 1998, supporters of Sunderlal Patwa, had also taken to the same strategy when the veteran BJP leader was seeking a fourth term from Bhojpur, the elders recall.

They remember that Patwa, a former Chief Minister was one of the strong contenders from BJP for the CM post then. He had won the seat with a handsome margin, though the BJP did not come to power in the state. Patwa was earlier the CM of Madhya Pradesh twice for brief spells of one month in 1980 and nine months in 1992.

Pachouri's nomination was a surprise entry from Congress in this elections.

A 15-member ward committee of important persons from the area monitors the campaign and election strategy of Pachouri at the bottom level.

The party has divided the constituency into 12 sectors for effective campaigning.  61-year-old Pachouri's nomination was in fact a surprise entry from Congress in this Assembly election and many believe that the party high command has some "grand plan" for the silent operator in the faction-ridden state.

The rivalry between Arjun Singh and Madhavrao Scindia appears to have entered the next generation of power politics in the state, where there is all round buzz that Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia do not see eye to eye with each other, though both Singh and Scindia publicly vouch there is "no issue of disunity".

And here in lies possibilities for Pachouri. Pachouri, whose tenure as PCC chief recorded one of the most crushing defeats of Congress in 2008, received two jolts in recent days. While his close aide and Hoshangabad MP Uday Pratap Singh joined the BJP a few days back, his another close aide and Deputy Leader in the state assembly Rakesh Verma had made a dramatic entry into the BJP some months back.

Pachouri is believed to have played a key role in getting Uday Pratap Singh ticket for the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. Pachouri, who has a Youth Congress background, was first elected to Rajya Sabha in 1984 and re-elected in 1990, 1996 and 2002. Currently, the convener of AICC’s Research and Coordination Department, Pachouri had served twice as MoS in the central government. He never won any Lok Sabha or assembly election in his 25 years of active political career taking the safe Rajya Sabha route.

As such he missed local connect in his hometown despite holding important positions. And hence this election is a make or mar opportunity for him. Sunderlal Patwa had shifted his constituency from Mandsaur district to Bhojpur in Raisen district in 1985 and since then, it has become a Patwa pocket borough. He went on to win the seat in 1990, 1993 and 1998.

In the last 30 years, Congress has been on losing trail here. Those who lost from the seat included late former Chief Minister Arjun Singh’s son Ajay Singh in 1993. Singh was defeated by Sundarlal Patwa by over 25,000 votes in a multi-cornered contest.

However, when Patwa resigned to contest Lok Sabha elections in 1997, BJP’s margin of victory in Bhojpur seat came down to 4000 votes in the assembly bye-election. BJP’s Ramkishan Chouhan had then defeated the Congress candidate Bhupat Singh.

Patwa again contested and won the seat from a handsome margin in 1998.

Showing little interest in this Pachouri-Patwa power tussle, people, however, have their own issues. At the Muslim dominated Gauriganj village, Yusuf is in a hurry for his evening prayer but comes out for a chat when asked about problems in the area. "Except agriculture, there is no other occupation.

There is rampant unemployment here. Four-five youths of the village had gone to Gulf. The rest are jobless and while away time in the village. There are many educated youths but no jobs. Some work in the factories at Mandidip and in the recently-opened thread factory at Tamoth", he said.

A long queue outside a licensed liquor shop is noticed as one enters the industrial area, which is part of the Bhojpur constituency. There are problems galore in tribal village like the Gond dominated Beejor and Bheel dominated Chimaria in the hilly forested terrain on the desolate Raisen-Gouriganj road. Raisen-Bhopal road is in a very dilapidate state.

At Raisen bazaar, Jameel Khan and Md Siddique allege that there is no electricity in Peeplavi Rajanbadi, just four km away but residents have been slapped electricity bills. They also allege that no work is done without greasing the palms of officials and farmers have to pay thousands to get electric transformers.

At Chikloud Kala village, Saraswai Bai complains of drinking water problem with the water table going down and only handpump in the village out of order. The state government’s bicycle scheme for girls, however, has come as a boon for tribal girls in tribal villages like Chimaria, Bijor, Nagari, barughaat. There are also posters of Gondwana Vikas Party in Bijor but a village youth Santosh Kakoria says the contest is between Congress and BJP.

Babulal Gond of Bijor has not allowed poverty to kill his self-esteem. Politely declining a cup of tea offered to him, Gond says his times were different. "I did not study but youth are now studying. But not many, most still working as labour," he says.

PTI

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