New Delhi: M.P. Vishwakarma is on a mission in Madhya Pradesh — to defeat the state’s current first family, the Naths. And the 69-year-old has adopted a unique approach to do this.
Vishwakarma is the Rashtriya Aamjan Party (RAP) candidate for the Chhindwara assembly seat, where MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath is contesting a bypoll and is also the party’s candidate in the Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency, from where Nath’s son, Nakul, is the Congress candidate.
Both constituencies vote on 29 April.
Vishwakarma, who hails from Chhindwara, is the RAP’s national secretary. He told ThePrint he had been approached by Congress party to withdraw his candidature in the assembly by-election.
“Woh Congress ke kuch log aaye the mere pass ki Nath sahab ko nirvirodh jitana hai (Some people from the Congress approached me saying that (Kamal) Nath need to be elected unopposed),” he said, adding that he has refused.
His main electoral promise is to ensure the reopening of the coal mines in Chindwara district and redistribution of the money among the people who have been duped in a chit fund scam from 2010.
Vishwakarma told ThePrint that he was once a superintendent engineer with the Western Coalfields Limited (WCL), a subsidiary of the government-owned Coal India. He claims that 40 mines in and around Chhindwara, which employed almost 10,000 people each, have been closed.
Reviving them would provide large-scale employment across the state, he said, blaming the BJP for joblessness in the state.
“There has been systematic destruction of the labour class by the BJP,” he said. “They first disbanded the labourers by closing the mines and then devastated the unemployed labourers elsewhere through demonetisation.”
According to Vishwakarma, the RAP has a two-lakh supporter base across the state but mainly concentrated around Bhopal and Chhindwara. The party first made news after choosing the shoe as its election symbol and polishing the shoes of people as part of its campaign. The party runs on a self-funding campaign and candidates bear the cost of their campaign.
But going by its dismal poll record, Vishwakarma’s election prospects look bleak. The party fielded five candidates in the 2018 Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, including its president Sharad Singh Kumre from Bhopal South West, but none of them received more than 1 per cent of the vote share in their respective constituencies.
A party and its president
The RAP was founded in 2014 by current president Kumre, and registered in 2015. Kumre told ThePrint that he was a staunch supporter of the Anna Hazare Movement and had led the anti-corruption protests across Madhya Pradesh.
He also claimed to be a founder member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its national council and said he later left the party as it began inducting members charged with corruption and criminal cases.
Kumre, who hails from the Mahakoshal region of Seoni, Madhya Pradesh, left his government job as a district manager of the Government Industries after his sister Bindu Kumre, a CRPF personnel, was killed in a suicide attack in Srinagar in 2001. In 2002, Bindu Kumre was awarded the President’s Police Medal for gallantry for her actions during the attack.
Her brother says voters have been polluted by the current corrupt politics.
“People don’t give much attention to candidates with a clean image as they don’t have much glamour attached to them,” Kumre said. “Everyone wants entertainment in elections these days.”
He cited the example of BJP fielding Pragya Thakur in Bhopal.
“The Congress started this trend and now the BJP is also exploiting Hindutva for political mileage,” he said. “Such candidates who glorify the death of our martyrs such as Hemant Karkare should be denied sacred titles such as sadhvi. My sister died of a terrorist attack, no one knows the pain and grief better than me.”
Get the PrintEssential to make sense of the day's key developments