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Cong makes a belated start

THE CONGRESS seems to have woken up to the ground realities in Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency rather too late. evertheless, the party has managed to make a contest out of what earlier appeared a cakewalk for the BJP in the saffron citadel.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2006 16:49 IST

THE CONGRESS seems to have woken up to the ground realities in Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency rather too late. evertheless, the party has managed to make a contest out of what earlier appeared a cakewalk for the BJP in the saffron citadel.

Congress leaders privately admit if only the party had taken the polls a little more seriously from the beginning, it would have stood a fair chance of upsetting the BJP applecart. There is a latent anger against the BJP and Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who represented the seat for 15 years, owing to lack of basic development. 

Instead of strategising a direct onslaught on the BJP over the development issue, the Congress preferred to bank on caste and Uma factors too heavily. Now, it transpires that Uma Bharti’s Bhartiya Janshakti is nowhere in the reckoning.

After costly procrastination, the Congress campaign has picked up in the right earnest. In the last two days, the election meetings of Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh  considerably galvanised the party workers.

The contest now is between the Congress and the BJP. Despite the Chief Minister’s unrelenting campaigning, the Congress hopes to at least reduce the defeat margin, if not turn the tables on the BJP.

Congress candidate Raj Shree Singh seems far ahead of the BJ candidate Raghunandan Sharma. Even the BJP activists support this view. “The BJ is nowhere in the contest. And, margin of victory for BJP candidate Rampal Singh is likely to reduce.

Not because there will be more voting for the Congress but percentage of voting is definitely going to reduce substantially,” said Surendra Sisodiya, a sector in charge of the BJP in one of the villages under Shamshabad Assembly segment.

His prediction seems plausible, given the lack of enthusiasm among the electorate across the constituency. With just three days left for the campaigning to end, banners, posters, party flags and other campaigning material are not so visible in the constituency.

Indifference to the election is so evident that top leaders from all the major parties, including Arjun Singh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJ president Uma Bharti were in and around the areas under Shamshabad constituency on Wednesday but their presence hardly had any visible impact on the electorates, who were busy with their daily chores as usual.   

“We have a good network of workers and they are all working very hard. If they could streamline their efforts to motivate people to come out for voting, the Congress can hope to break the magic spell cast over Vidisha by the saffron party ever since Atal Bihari Vajpayee contested election from Vidisha in 1971,” said two-time Congress MP from Vidisha Pratap Bhanu Sharma.

Notwithstanding Sharma’s optimism, it seems difficult for the Congress to reverse the huge BJP lead in the successive elections unless Uma Bharti and her trusted lieutenant Prahlad Patel are able do something drastic to turn the tide in this constituency.

As of now, Prahalad Patel admitted many of Uma Bharti’s supporters particularly among women and weaker sections are not aware of party’s election symbol.

“Uma Bharti is on the top in terms of popular support but we are at the bottom in terms of our preparedness for election management. The Congress hopes that the BJ ‘steals’ majority of Brahmin, Lodhi, Kushwah and Dangi votes and with its traditional base among Dalits, Muslims and Brahmins, it might turn the tables on the BJP. But, it seems a difficult proposition, going by the nascent disposition of the BJ organisation.