But his pep talk does not seem to have made much difference. BJP leaders, unable to defend the record of the BJP government, are raking up the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 to target Kamal Nath and potholed roads from Digvijaya Singh’s tenure as CM between 1993 and 2003—these being the top Congress leaders.
Meanwhile, there is simmering anger among the people over rampant corruption and inept administration, besides police high-handedness. The probe into the Vyapam recruitment scam has reached a dead end. The probe report of the Jain Commission on the police firing at Mandsaur in 2017 is yet to be made public though thousands of farmers, booked for the unrest over low prices, continue to attend court. Similarly, the probe into the so-called honey-trap scandal has been dragging on for the past three years.
The BJP government took a fancy to bulldozers since 2020 and used them to pull down the homes of Muslims and Dalits on the flimsiest of grounds and without following due process. However, following raps on the knuckles from the courts and recent reverses in the panchayat elections, the state government’s ardour for bulldozers has cooled off substantially.
When a strong gale last week damaged the Mahakal corridor in Ujjain, built on the lines of the Kashi corridor in Varanasi at a cost of Rs 320 crore and inaugurated by the prime minister earlier this year, questions were raised on corruption and poor construction. The gale dislodged and dismembered several idols, including one of Lord Shiva, revealing them to be hollower than expected.
In the face of this disarray, the Congress camp is a contrast—brimming with confidence and looking more united, better organised and more determined. The confusion over the chief ministerial ‘face’ was settled early, unlike in Karnataka, with Digvijaya Singh announcing publicly that Kamal Nath would be the party’s face in the election. The two senior leaders (Kamal Nath barely a year older than Digvijaya Singh) seem to have put together an effective team.
Political analyst Rasheed Kidwai, known for his acerbic and candid comments about the Congress, says, “For the first time in the last two decades, Congress leaders are working to unite the party and workers, setting aside personal preferences and factional interests.”
Digvijaya Singh has been assigned to oversee the campaign in 66 constituencies where the Congress has not won even once in the last three elections. The former Congress chief minister, who had undertaken the Narmada Yatra along the river’s route from September 2017 to April 2018, was also a part of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Both these yatras seem to have revived the party in the state.