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India Votes
Arjun’s token fight against daughter, son
Our Roving Editor Man Mohan writes from Sidhi (MP)

Madhya Pradesh’s most fascinating and intriguing Lok Sabha election is taking place in the Sidhi constituency in the Vindhyanchal region’s northeastern borders touching Uttar Pradesh. Here, it is the story of high passions, humiliation, honour and loyalty as well.

Much to the embarrassment to the Congress, the party’s veteran and Union Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh’s daughter, Veena Singh (56), has fielded herself here as an Independent candidate.

Arjun Singh had asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi to give the ticket to Veena Singh from Satna and his MLA son Ajay Singh (55) from Sidhi. She ignored his request.

When the election fever picked up, Arjun Singh said he would work for the party candidate and his close confidante, Indrajeet Patel, and not for his daughter. But he avoided coming here, although he touched adjoining districts.

On the party high command’s insistence, Arjun Singh hit the Sidhi poll track to campaign for Patel on Tuesday, the last day of campaigning. Sidhi goes to polls on Thursday.

Sitting in a wheel chair, Arjun Singh spoke barely for three minutes in emotionally choked Baghelkhandi dialect, reading out from written text. He neither mentioned Patel nor Veena Singh. But the message was loud and clear — “vote for my daughter” — as sitting on the stage with him were Veena Singh’s son Aishwaraya and daughter-in-law Devyani. Ajay Singh, who has been crossing swords with his sister for some time because of internal family politics, also spoke but avoided mentioning sister.

BJP candidate in Sidhi, Govind Mishra, is puzzled, not knowing which side the wind is blowing.

In the adjoining Satna constituency also, the Congress is facing rebellion from former Mayor and district Congress president, Rajaram Tripathi, who is contesting as a Samajwadi Party candidate against the official nominee, Sudhir Singh Tomar. In both Sidhi and Satna, the Congress workers are either sitting at home or are canvassing for Veena Singh and rebel candidates.

Veena Singh is not associated with the Congress. She runs an NGO. Ajay Singh has been in the state politics for long. He represents the Churhat assembly segment, part of the Sidhi constituency. Churhat is a small erstwhile estate belonging to ‘Dau Sahib’, Arjun Singh’s ancestors. In mid-eighties, Churhat was in headlines for alleged financial irregularities in a lottery started by Arjun Singh’s family members.

With the denial of poll tickets to Arjun Singh’s children began a TV soap opera style political family drama, which is drawing more attention than any other election battle in this state. Former chief minister Arjun Singh, once known as ‘lion of Madhya Pradesh’, is so much upset and shocked that he has publicly said: “Honour and humiliation have ceased to be concepts in the Congress. I am shocked by what is in store for loyalty.”

Veena Singh has been firing salvos on the Congress, accusing it of humiliating and sidelining her 79-year-old father “who spent his lifetime to serve it”. In her aggressive campaign, she is asking people, “What reward my father got for his loyalty, nothing but humiliation.” She provokes them by saying, “If you owe anything to my father, please elect his daughter, remember, I am contesting for the first time.”

Arjun Singh’s rivals have accused him of carrying out campaign for his daughter by proxy and remote control. His wife Saroj Singh came here for daughter’s campaign. Veena Singh is distributing election material carrying her father’s pictures. Arjun Singh represented this constituency from 1991 to 1996.

Recently, at an election meeting in Ballia (UP), Arjun Singh broke down. Tears rolled down his cheeks, creating an embarrassing situation for the Congress across the country. A senior party leader in Bhopal dubbed it as ‘a crocodile’s tears’ and said it looked like a shrewd calculated move to drift away to the ‘Third Front’ or the NCP, if the ‘Hand’ fails to come to power.

Interestingly, while entering politics in 1960s, Arjun Singh had successfully contested the MLA’s election as an Independent, when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru denied him the ticket. Nehru did this as Arjun Singh’s father, R. S. Bahadur Singh, then minister for civil supplies in the Congress-led Central Province Government in 1950, was convicted on corruption charges. Three years later, he joined the Congress in 1960.

However, Ajay Singh is upset with his sister, as he himself was keen to fight the election from Sidhi. He has accused her of manipulating the family to run her writ at Arjun Singh’s home and the HRD ministry. Veena Singh would soon discover whether she would win her first ‘election lottery’.



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