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Backroom boy steps out

india Updated: Nov 26, 2008 00:37 IST
NK Singh
NK Singh
Hindustan Times
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A nameplate in front of his government house in Bhopal proudly underlines, for some mysterious reason, his professional qualification — Engineer Suresh Pachouri. As the chief of the Madhya Pradesh Congress, Pachouri, armed with his degree in mechanical engineering, two cellphones, a tricolour gamchha around his neck, and a band of loyal supporters, is trying to fix victory for his party.

“We shall form the next government,” he told HT on Monday night, soon after winding up a gruelling day travelling with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and addressing a couple of election meetings in Jabalpur.

Both his cellphones keep ringing incessantly. Most of the calls are from candidates informing him about their problems in the battlefield. Pachouri has a word of advice or caution for everyone.

“I had informed you earlier also that your seat is still in the ‘close contest’ category. There are still two days left. Do everything that is required to make it winnable,” he told a candidate. The clear emphasis is on the word everything. And he rings up people to get more reports, the latest inside reports, straightening a wrinkle here, surmounting a problem there.
That is where Pachouri excels.

He finds the time to do all this particularly because he is not contesting the elections himself.

He is the quintessential organisation man, your proverbial grassroots politician who revels in being the backroom boy. Despite his presence in public life for three decades and holding the post of Union minister twice, Pachouri has lost the only election he ever contested. He runs his politics, Rajya Sabha-style, whose member he has been for the past quarter century.

His serious visage peers down from almost every election poster. It is as if the party is trying to sell Brand Pachouri. The Madhya Pradesh Congress is projecting its president and no one else. In most of the 230 constituencies in the state, Pachouri is the only Congress leader on posters and banners — apart from Sonia Gandhi and the local candidate.

There are, of course regional variations. In the Chambal and Gwalior region, Jyotiraditya Scindia occupies the pride of place in posters and banners. In Chhindwara district, Congress candidates carry Kamal Nath’s pictures alongside theirs. But almost everywhere Pachouri’s is the most visible face.

The strategy of projecting Pachouri alone — instead of the conventional combined leadership — has obviously put an onerous responsibility on his shoulders.

So, finding time from his backroom operations, Pachouri flies in his chartered chopper or plane from one dusty town to another, delivering fiery speeches. His aides said he has addressed close to 100 election meetings. Many of these were with other important leaders of the party.

“Ever since the BJP has come to power,” charged Pachouri, “people are facing goonda raj and mafia raj. This government has failed to keep its promises,” he told a crowd at Gotegaon on Monday. The crowd, consisting mainly of Congress workers,
cheers.

Will they be there to cheer when the ballot boxes open on December 8?