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Polls 2008: Madhya Pradesh
Will the other Rahul ‘bhaiyya’ win electoral lottery?
Our Roving Editor Man Mohan writes from Churhat (MP)

Does this place ring a bell? Located in the Siddhi district, in the mid-1980s had suddenly shot into the limelight because of the alleged Churhat lottery scandal.

The lottery was floated in the name of collecting funds for the welfare of Churhat's children but there were widespread allegations then about siphoning the huge money that was earned through the lottery.

The Churhat lottery had snowballed into a major controversy as it was launched by the family members of Madhya Pradesh’s then chief minister and now union human resource development minister, Arjun Singh, who belongs to Churhat.

A PIL was then filed in the High Court to demand an investigation into the lottery scandal. People had wondered what was the need to launch a lottery from this sleepy 'kasba'.

Former state chief minister, Arjun Singh, generally used to contest assembly elections from Churhat (only once he moved to Kharsia, near Bilaspur, now in Chhattisgarh, to fight a by-poll) till he moved to the Lok Sabha. He then handed over the baton to his son, Ajay Singh, who has been winning from Churhat as a Congress candidate since 1985, except on one occasion, when he tried his luck from somewhere else.

Ajay Singh is once again in the poll arena. Nothing much has changed in Churhat’s outlook, despite the fact that it has been the ‘janam and karam bhoomi’ of both Arjun Singh and his son. Once known as the ‘lion’ of Madhya Pradesh, Arjun Singh no longer enjoys clout in the state politics. This time, he could not get the party tickets for his hardcore supporters.

If you visit Churhat to attend Ajay Singh's rallies, you will hear slogans “Hamara CM kaisa ho, Rahul bhaiyya jaisa ho.” Don't be confused. They are not talking about Rahul Gandhi, it is Ajay Singh who is popularly known as “Rahul Bhaiya.”

Arjun Singh's family has lived in this estate like feudal lords. The area has always worked on caste lines-Thakurs versus Brahmins. If you go by the whispers of local people, Ajay, alias Rahul bhaiyya, is in trouble.

His Bharatiya Janata Party rival is also an Ajay. The saffron party's Ajay Pratap Singh is also attempting to woo the Thakur votes, using his family's lineage and connections. The BJP is also hoping to consolidate its traditional Brahmin votes.

But it is not a straight fight between the two Ajays. A young Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) candidate, Shardendu Tiwari, has made it a tough triangular contest.

In Madhya Pradesh, the GGP has also emerged on the lines of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party to represent backward classes. The GGP is also following the BSP's ‘social engineering’ concept that helped “Behenji” to grab power in Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time. The GGP has also distributed election tickets to members of various communities, including Brahmins and Banias.

As Tiwari is confident of grabbing a large chunk of Brahmin votes, it is worrying the BJP. “We are trying to stop a split in the Brahmin votes and bring anti-Thakur votes in our favour,” said a local BJP leader.

But both BJP and GGP are worried about the possibility of “booth capturing”. A GGP worker said, "The Thakurs have always indulged in booth capturing and stopped lower caste voters from coming to polling booths in the past, but this time we are ready to stop their gameplan"

As the state Congress campaign committee chief, Ajay Singh has now started concentrating in his own constituency, addressing people in the local Baghelkhandi dialect.

When Ajay Singh is told that he is facing a tough contest, he denies it with a smile, but immediately points out that the BJP and GPP have “ganged up against me.” According to him, there are “clear instructions” from the BJP chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, to the BJP cadres to help Shardendu Tiwari as he is the son of P. P. Tiwari (Madhya Pradesh's Chief Information Officer).

When one asks Ajay Singh, why the CM would instruct his own party people to back the GPP candidate, instead of the BJP nominee, he says, “Because the CM knows that the BJP can not win in Churhat.”

Well, that makes it clear that Ajay Singh is more worried about the GPP, than the BJP, as the caste factor holds the key in the triangular fight. Ajay Singh is also worried about ‘sabotage’ by certain Congress leaders (who hate his father) as he has been aspiring for the CM's “gaddi.”

And, if the GPP wins, history will be repeated here after four decades. Shardendu is the grandson of the veteran socialist leader, Chandra Pratap Tiwari, who had taken on Arjun Singh in this constituency in 1967, and defeated him.

In the 2003 assembly polls, Ajay Singh had secured 56,271 votes to win, and defeated his nearest BJP rival, Govind Prasad, by13,918 votes. The BSP candidate, Subhash Singh, was at third position by getting 6,778 votes only.

However, the GPP’s Shardendu Tiwari is putting up a good fight. “Just watch, history will be repeated this time after 41 years. My grandfather defeated Arjun Singh, and I will defeat his son, Ajay Singh,” says a confident Tiwari.

For Ajay Singh, the whole election has become like a ‘lottery ticket’, not knowing whether he would win or lose.



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