Bhopal: Congress leader Sachin Pilot joined the campaign for the upcoming Madhya Pradesh bypolls Tuesday but refrained from naming friend and former party colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia in his four speeches.
It was a rebellion led by Scindia that has caused a total of 25 MLAs to defect from the Congress to the BJP this year. The erstwhile Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh was brought down in March as 22 MLAs rebelled, and three resigned later.
Of the 28 assembly seats headed for bypolls, vacancies in 25 have resulted from the rebellion, with all the Congress defectors getting BJP tickets. While Pilot, who is in the state for a two-day trip, refused to name Scindia in his addresses, his party colleagues did lash out at the leader.
“Today, you will have to differentiate between those who want to develop the region and those who can’t develop (it). When the Congress was in power at the Centre, it took pro-people initiatives,” Pilot said in Joura, referring to the Congress-led UPA government under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“When the economy is in a shambles due to Covid, the poor could get food only because of MGNREGA,’’ he added.
Pilot accused BJP leader and four-term CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who succeeded Nath, of using the backdoor to occupy the chair in his latest stint.
“Janata ne aapko ghar bithaya tha par satta ke lalach mein dobara aakar baith gaye (the voters had sent you home, but greed for power made you occupy the chair again),” the former Union minister said.
He also referred to the Vyapam (Hindi acronym for the state professional examination board) scam, which erupted under Chouhan’s previous tenure and centres on allegations of corruption in appointments and admissions made by the board.
“Vyapam was a huge scam and many people lost their lives but nobody has been punished yet,” he added.
Pilot said the audiences’ response to Congress candidates suggested they would all win the by-elections.
Pilot and Scindia, who served as party colleagues in the Congress for years, are believed to be good friends.
The Congress has engaged Pilot to campaign for the MP bypolls in the Gwalior-Chambal belt, an area where Scindia courts influence. The belt is home to 16 of the 28 seats where by-elections are to be held. Pilot’s presence, it is expected, will help the party reach out to the Gurjar community, which is believed to influence outcomes in six to seven seats.
By bringing in Pilot, the Congress also wanted to counter Scindia by getting another young leader in the campaign fray.
Contrary to Pilot, former state minister Jeetu Patwari, who spoke earlier, came down heavily on the “traitors”.
He made a legislator from another constituency rise up and tell voters that he had been “offered Rs 50 crore to defect” but he “rejected the offer”.
“Bechnewala Scindia tha aur kharidnewala wala Shivraj (Scindia was the seller and Shivraj the buyer),” the leader said, alleging that the BJP bought Congress legislators by offering them crores.
Acharya Pramod Krishnan, a religious figure engaged as a star campaigner by the Congress, referred to Pilot’s rebellion earlier this year — which ended in a settlement between the leader and the Congress brass — and said the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister could have toppled the state government if he desired but did not “because he believes in principles and democracy”.
The MP bypolls are scheduled for 3 November. The assembly altogether has 230 seats. As things stand, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the House, the Congress 87, four Independents, two MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and one from the Samajwadi Party. One seat was left vacant last week when a 26th Congress MLA quit the party and the house to join the BJP.