In Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya is closer to Kamal Nath and has hinted that he is against Jyotiraditya Scindia as Congress’ CM face.

 

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh might have lost 6 kg of weight during his six-month-long Narmada Parikrama Yatra, but judging by the response he got, he has certainly added mass to his political clout, at least in Madhya Pradesh, if not in New Delhi.

Last Monday when Digvijaya Singh reached AICC headquarters in Delhi after finishing his yatra, he got a warm welcome from the “karyakartas”. His office had the largest crowd—some wanting to click selfies with him, while others came bearing bouquets. The first sign of politics unusual was when he refused to comment on the National Investigation Agency (NIA) court acquitting all accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case, unlike in the past, when he gave TV channels the headlines of the day by talking on such crucial and sensitive issues. But post his Narmada makeover he has decided to remain silent and instead asked the media to speak to the party’s official spokespersons. His post-yatra Twitter timeline is full of tweets about equality, justice and Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s legacy—there was no sign of controversial sound-bites that gave him the sobriquet Maulana Digvijaya.

He is now embracing the Hindu within, for whether the “dharmik yatra” revives the Congress fortunes in the state or not, it has certainly revived Digvijaya’s image as a committed Hindu who spent the last six months in and out of ashrams. The finale of this yatra was a welcome by his spiritual guru Dwarka-Sharda Peeth Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati. But it’s no coincidence that Digvijaya is rediscovering his Hindu roots at around the same time Rahul Gandhi began his temple tourism.

For the record, Digvijaya maintains that his yatra was “apolitical” and a “dharmik” exercise. Again, look at the impeccable timing, coming as it does on the eve of a crucial Assembly elections in the state, one wonders if this was his political make-over bid. The timing is also all the more crucial when you recall that he started the yatra a few months after his removal as general secreatry in-charge of Karnataka and Goa, also amidst the backdrop of the Goa election debacle when he was given charge to ensure a Congress government in the state. The BJP stole the government from under the Congress’ nose, even though it was the latter which had the largest number of MLAs. To avoid political censure, Digvijaya turned spiritual.

The two-term former CM of the state trekked over 3,300 km in the state along with his wife Amrita. He covered 110 Assembly segments of the state and a few in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh too. Huge crowds turned up to walk along with him as did senior Congress leaders such as Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Both incidentally are also contenders to be the party’s CM face in the state and it was clear both were seeking Diggy Raja’s support. Of the two, he is closer to Nath and has hinted that Scindia’s candidature does not have his support. If not king himself he is certainly a kingmaker.

Before the yatra, the Congress high command could have ignored his views and sent him to the “margdarshak mandal”. But not after he has provided his leadership with visual proof of the kind of ground-support he can evoke in this Hindi—and Hindu—heartland state. There is another crucial component of his makeover. His harshest critics also concede that even if he cannot win the state for the party, he can ensure that it loses.

Perhaps, the Digvijaya factor is one reason why the party is dragging its feet from making any changes in the state and announcing a face for Madhya Pradesh. Soon he plans to launch another yatra in BJP bastions in Madhya Pradesh, and will certainly try to jettison his “bantadhar CM” image, a phrase coined by BJP way back in 2003 when he was the CM of the state. Although a few Congress veterans have been shown the door, Digvijaya still retains charge of the crucial state of Andhra Pradesh. Those who are watching to see what role Digvijaya will play in Rahul Gandhi’s new team now have their answer.

He has shown that of all the state stalwarts he is the only one who has a pan Madhya Pradesh acceptance.F

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