The results of the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan Assembly elections will be declared only on December 11 but the Congress leaders in these states have already started celebrating. The confidence in the Congress camp is based on the feedback it has received from the ground, which suggests that Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh — the three-term chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively — may be denied another stint in the government because of the prevailing mood for change and voter fatigue. Convinced that they are finally coming back to power, the Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh have been busy allocating portfolios to each other as they wait impatiently for the poll verdict. Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath has been “declared” chief minister while his colleague Suresh Pachouri has been designated Speaker of the new Assembly and Ajay Singh, the outgoing leader of the Opposition, has been picked to head the home ministry. Former chief minister Digvijay Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh is being tipped for a ministerial berth. Congress leaders in neighbouring Chhattisgarh are still coming to terms with the fact that the party could actually succeed in unseating the BJP government. The election in Rajasthan is a week away, but here again, the Congress is sure it will succeed in dethroning the Vasundhara Raje government. It is being said the candidates are so confident that they don’t even feel the need to go out campaigning. They are waiting in the wings to attend the oath-taking ceremony.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav has been lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail for close to a year now after he was convicted in the fodder scam case. A popular and charismatic leader in his home state Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s supporters and party workers arrive in droves for a meeting with him. The jailed RJD leader is allowed three visitors and, that too, only on Saturdays. But not everyone is lucky to get entry because of these restrictions imposed by the jail authorities. Recently, former Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav had to come back without meeting him. Then there have been instances when his family members have been forced to take a back seat in order to accommodate Lalu Yadav supporters. However, his wife Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharti have not gone to jail to meet Yadav, not because of any family tensions but only because culturally it is not acceptable for women to visit anyone in jail.
It was a casual remark by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, during the campaign trail in Rajasthan, that like the BJP, they could also have a woman chief minister in the desert state. But it did fuel the ambitions of senior women leaders. Girija Vyas, who is contesting the December 7 Assembly election from Udaipur, was convinced by her loyalists that the remark was an indication that she is also a contender for the top post in case the Congress succeeds in forming the next government in Rajasthan. After all, Ms Vyas comes with a wealth of experience. She has been a minister at the Centre and the state, and has also done a stint in the party organisation. Similarly, Chandresh Kumari, who belongs to the royal family of Jodhpur and is married into the Kangra royal family, also believed she stood a chance. She too has been a minister in the state and at the Centre and, though she has primarily contested elections from Himachal Pradesh, she also won the Lok Sabha election from Jodhpur in 2009. But unfortunately, she failed to get a ticket as she has been out for circulation for the past several years now.
When Congress campaign managers drew up the blueprint for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, they set aside a sum of money for cinema spots as a part of the party’s publicity plans. But those in charge were unaware that cinema hall owners in the state had downed shutters to press their demand for the withdrawal of entertainment tax. In fact, no new movie could be released throughout October in MP because of the strike. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan apparently intervened and persuaded the owners to call off the strike a few weeks before the elections as it was not going down well with the youth. On its part, the Congress, which had given up its plans for the release of cinema spots, had to scramble around at the last minute to take advantage of the resumption of film screenings.