When Vajpayee took umbrage at Digvijaya Singh

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had always had a very cordial relationship based on mutual respect. The latter, though, would not hesitate in injecting some mischief in his politics if he thought it would benefit him. His hand was believed in the campaign of calumny against then Prime Minister Vajpayee during the Assembly election campaign of 2003 which saw the end of Digvijaya Singh’s ten-year rule in Madhya Pradesh.

Digvijaya Singh was continuously talking that the BJP would resort to communal riots while the BJP leaders, Kailash Joshi and Uma Bharti included, were trying to confine their campaign to the Digvijaya Singh government’s failures in the past nine years and were feeling shy of using the language of Modi and Togadia.

Though communal flare up in Ganj Basoda was controlled by the police promptly, Digvijaya Singh had blown it up out of proportion with the refrain ‘didn’t I say’. While parroting ‘didn’t I say’, he continued to ignore the nitty-gritty of administration (his own expression). When the situation in Dhar and the adjoining areas took a turn for the worse, his administration was found wanting in preparedness. The result: he had the blood of some tribals and Muslims on his hands.

He had definitely succeeded, at least for the time being, in diverting the attention of the BJP from the people-oriented issues to the Mandir-Masjid problem and the cow. These are the issues, which the BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits know better how to exploit to their advantage. A circular issued by Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress President Meenakshi Natarajan had directed the Youth Congress units in the State to propagate the following slogans at every panchayat, ward, city and block: Atal Sarkar ki kya upalabdhi, go-maans niryat mein vriddhi (what is the achievement of Atal government, increase in beef export); go-maans ka kaun vyapari, Atal Bihari Atal Bihari (who is the trader in beef, Atal Bihari Atal Bihari); pahale Ram naam becha satta pai, ab gaiya teri vari aai (first they sold Ram’s name to acquire power, now is the turn of cow); gao-mata ki jaan bachao, Atal ki sarkar hatao ( save the life of cow and remove Atal government); gai hamari Mata hai, Atal Bihari khata hai, videsh bhej khilwata hai (cow is our mother, Atal Bihari eats it, and sends it to other countries for eating).

The copies of the circular were also endorsed to Mukul Vasnik (AICC general secretary in charge of Youth Congress), Digvijaya Singh, and Radhakishan Malaviya (PCC chief), among others.

Not unnaturally, the Prime Minister took umbrage at the slogans, directed against him, at the BJP parliamentary party meeting. Full 24 hours after the Prime Minister had given vent to his anger, Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh was denying any such absurdity having been committed by the Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress.

Digvijaya Singh’s bluff was called by Uma Bharti the following morning when she distributed to pressmen photocopies of Natarajan’s circular. Cornered, ‘the radical-secular’ Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh then stated that the posters distributed by the Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress were not good. The enormous damage had already been done – not to Atal Behari Vajpayee but to Digvijaya Singh and his party. The Prime Minister chose Himachal Pradesh to declare his commitment to cow protection. He also took the opportunity to announce that he would prefer dying to eating beef.

N D Sharma

is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

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