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As Digvijaya Singh Takes a Deep Dive, Friends and Foes Try to Read the Ripple Effect

Starting September 30, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh will start a 3,000-km parikrama of the Narmada river. The timing of it — ahead of the Madhya Pradesh elections next year — has raised eyebrows.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:September 24, 2017, 1:50 PM IST
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As Digvijaya Singh Takes a Deep Dive, Friends and Foes Try to Read the Ripple Effect
File photo of Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh
New Delhi: Digvijaya Singh never breaks a vow. Routed by Sanyasin Uma Bharti in 2003, ‘Diggy Raja’ took 10-year sanyas from electoral politics.

The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister returned to the Rajya Sabha in 2014. In those 10 years of sanyas and thereafter, in Parliament or outside, Digvijaya Singh as Congress’s chief brand ambassador to the minorities has managed to eke out a space for himself in national discourse.

The jury is still out on how much the Congress Party has benefitted from Digvijaya Singh’s regular interventions. Opinions vary on whether his “Osama ji” gaffe in 2011 brought tangible gains to the Grand Old Party or whether it polarised the majority towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Earlier this year, the Goa setback, wherein the Congress failed to form the government even after emerging as the single largest party, gave enough ammunition to his adversaries.

Fellow Madhya Pradesh leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi was most vocal of the lot. Digvijaya Singh has since been relieved of his duties as in-charge of both Goa and poll-bound Karnataka.

But then, come debacle or victory, one can’t keep ‘Diggy Raja’ out of the mainstream narrative for long. Some leaders have an uncanny knack to remain afloat.

The latest parikrama which Digvijaya Singh now plans to embark upon this month-end is being keenly watched — both by friends and foes.

In political circles, it is being seen as a deep dive by the Raja of Raghogarh to remain buoyant. Its ripples, however, are being felt across the political spectrum.

Starting September 30, Singh will start a 3,000-km circumambulation of the Narmada river. This parikrama will be spread over the next six months. In the process, the Congress will be touching more than a 100 Assembly segments in Madhya Pradesh.

It’s a holy walk which Digvijaya Singh claims to have been planning for two decades now. But the timing of it now, when Congress is to finalise its leadership for MP elections slated for next year, has raised eyebrows.

One of the many decisions party vice-president Rahul Gandhi has to take after he is back from the US is to decide who will lead the electoral charge in Madhya Pradesh. It’s a choice between Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia with the balance tipping in favour of the latter.

Is this yatra, which is non-political and state-wide, his way of trying to be relevant? “Not at all. I have been wanting to do it since 1998,” he says.

The yatra will begin from Barman Ghat in Narsinghpur district of the state. It’s the heart of the state and was an important place for the Congress movement during freedom struggle.

Digvijaya has his fair share of enemies and many of his colleagues accuse him of wanting to disrupt a narrative being built to challenge 15 years of BJP hegemony in the state.

Singh rubbishes the allegations. “Those who accuse me should know that in my life two things are non-negotiable — my loyalty to the Congress and its ideology, and my loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family,” he tells News18.

No one really doubts Digvijaya Singh’s loyalty quotient. The then MP chief minister stood firm in the face of a rebellion by Sharad Pawar and others. A protégé of former HRD minister Arjun Singh, he imbibed and emulated his guru in many ways — from strident anti-RSS position to social justice.

Many in the party feel that just as Arjun Singh’s push for OBC politics didn’t cut ice with then prime minister Manmohan Singh, the same seems to be happening to Digvijaya and his brand of minority politics.

Digvijaya Singh perhaps toed a line which suited the Congress high command at one point in time.

But a rout in 2014 made the Congress realise that this minority outreach had actually harmed it and was being seen as one of the reasons for the smashing defeat.

But then, Digvijaya Singh knows how to fight back and survive. He’s done that for a decade despite being in self-imposed exile from electoral politics. He takes a vow and never breaks it.

It is just that Congressmen and the BJP leaders are worried what pratigya (resolve), if any, he has taken this time around.
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