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Development overrides other issues in MP

MP is for the first time in recent years witnessing a different phenomenon with development emerging as the key issue in polls.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2003 13:00 IST

Madhya Pradesh, dubbed as one of the bimaru states, is for the first time in recent years witnessing a different phenomenon with development emerging as the key issue in the Assembly elections overriding other factors, thanks to the power crisis and bad roads.

Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, who once remarked that elections are not won on the basis of developmental works, is being put in a tight spot by an aggressive BJP, which is exploiting hardships of the people much to the discomfiture of Congress.

Perhaps, never in the past the emphasis on development was so overwhelming than this time.

BJP has been aggressively propagating that the 10 years Congress rule has put Madhya Pradesh among the bimaru (sick) states in the company of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The 1985 Assembly polls in the state were held in the backdrop of assassination of Indira Gandhi and in 1990 passions were high over the Ayodhya issue. The '93 polls were held a year after the demolition of Babri mosque.

the high price of onions overshadowed all other issues in 1998 bringing tears to the eyes of BJP as Congress, whose reins were taken over by Sonia Gandhi then, had emerged victorious.

Singh, who has talked of launching a Dalit agenda as also a minority agenda and had worked towards decentralisation of power through Panchayati Raj, has found himself on a sticky wicket on the issue of development.

Digvijay Singh's pronouncements that the indicators of human development have shown a positive trend during his 10 years rule have failed to cut much ice as the issue of infrastructure— power, roads, water— as also employment have taken precedence.

Veteran Congress leader Arjun Singh's reported apology to people during public meetings on the failure to provide adequate power has given an indication that all is not rosy for the ruling party in the state.

This is despite repeated assertions by the chief minister that the Congress could romp home with 125 to 135 seats out of a total of 230, a projection at variance with various pre-poll surveys.

BJP has been harping that the development model adopted by Digvijay was all but faulty as development only in the social sector cannot be an alternative to development in economic areas and there has to be a marriage between the two.

Congress attempts to capitalise on the Judeo episode appear to have not clicked to the desired extent nor the chief minister's filing of a defamation suit against BJP's chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharati for levelling serious corruption charges against him.

Congress moves to project Bharati in a bad light by showing that she was temperamental in nature and, therefore, ill-suited for the top job in the state appeared to have not made much of an impact.

The chief minister's initial attempts to bring to fore Hindutva issues like ban on cow slaughter and the controversial Bhojshala were deftly overlooked by the BJP as part of a conscious political strategy.

In fact, the congress slogan jo kaha, so kiya. jo kahenge so karenge (what we have promised, we have done. What we will promise, we will do)" is being turned against the ruling party itself by the opposition.

"Sadak, bijli, rozgar— das sal me bantadhar (it is disaster as regards roads, power and employment in the last 10 years)," is the BJP reply.

Attempts to hold the BJP-led coalition at the Centre responsible for problems in various spheres including power and roads are also being challenged by the opposition.

The chief minister is not happy over Arjun Singh's statement over the power crisis as he has reportedly stated that the issue of roads and power were not such that congress would have to apologise for them.

To this, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee says pushing development to the backburner was too big a crime to be condoned.

All said and done, it is the voter who will decide how he looks at the issue of development.

First Published: Nov 26, 2003 13:00 IST