Bhopal: In Madhya Pradesh they say, the Congress has more generals than soldiers. A chief minister candidate in every division. Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath, Kantilal Bhuria, Ajay Singh. It is another matter the party has lost three consecutive elections in the state.
But the curious case of Suresh Pachouri is most interesting. The former Union Minister maintains a low profile; and yet has time and again shown remarkable ability to wade through the highly cluttered leadership zone rife with internecine plots and sub-plots against one another.
Pachouri a career Congressman, has been a Rajya Sabha member for four consecutive terms. A Union minister with powerful portfolios, He may not have ever won a direct election, but come polls Pachouri’s clout in the state Congress is not lost on anyone. And it’s no surprise that once again he has been nominated by the party to contest assembly elections.
Pachouri has been pitted against Shivraj Chouhan’s minister Surendra Patwa, nephew of late CM and BJP veteran Sunderlal Patwa.
The former Congress Seva Dal chief has always rode high enjoying proximity to the Gandhis. Pachouri could take some pride from the fact that the constituency is his home turf. He was born in Beelakhedi village in Raisen district.
Bhojpur though turned into Patwa bastion after late Sunderlal Patwa had shifted base to Bhojpur from Mandsaur in 1985.
Incidentally, it’s the same seat from where Pachouri had been defeated by Surendra Patwa in 2013 Assembly polls by a margin of over 20,000 votes. The party high command, however, announced his name at the eleventh hour instead and Pachouri known for his unblemished loyalty to Gandhis quietly followed the orders.
Last time as well the party insiders were of the view that it was perhaps the last chance for Pachouri to keep his hold on party affairs both in New Delhi and Bhopal. Once again in 2018, they say this is his last chance to safeguard his political career.
“Surendra Patwa is facing anti-incumbency at home turf and with many financial default cases lodged against him, he might land in legal soup any time in future,” senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai told News18 claiming the equation could come handy for Pachauri.
Pachauri has however proved all his critics and political observers wrong surviving every defeat in direct elections with consummate ease.
Pachauri went to political oblivion after being removed as Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee head in 2011 but came back to reckoning when Rahul Gandhi inducted him into 32-member Pradesh Election Committee in August 2018.
Known as a leader of the party worker rather than being neta of the public, Pachauri’s another electoral foray came in 1999 when he took on BJP’s firebrand leader Uma Bharti in Bhopal for Lok Sabha polls only to suffer a record breaking defeat by over 1.6 lakh votes.
Pachauri’s notable achievement came in 2008 when he led the Congress tally to 71 from pitiable the 38 it had plummeted to during Uma Bharti’s historic win in 2003. With no electoral win in his pocket, Pachauri surprisingly remained at the helm and served as Union minister in the governments of PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh holding various key portfolios.
A rarity among his contemporaries, Pachauri had four Rajya Sabha terms to his credit in 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2002.
“Though no one knew what exactly prompted Gandhis to keep continuing their patronage to Pachauri but he has remained in the good books of party high command for sure,” senior political analyst Gurija Shankar claimed.
Pachauri never had strong connect with the public but had sizable sway on the party-cadre in central MP. And despite being sidelined in party affairs, Pachauri has once again managed to get tickets for many of his followers, including Arif Masood in Bhopal Madhya and Girish Sharma in high profile Govindpura seat in Bhopal.
However, with the Congress under Rahul Gandhi now seeking to bring about generational change in the party leadership, the 66-year-old Pachuri desperately needs a win to remain political relevant in MP.