Days after requesting senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh to contest from one of the toughest seats in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Saturday said that the party’s central election committee has finalised Singh’s name from the Bhopal seat.
Nath disclosed Singh’s candidature while interacting with reporters in Bhopal as part a Holi milan programme. The CM also said that his son Nakul Nath will be the candidate from Chhindwara Parliamentary seat. The senior Nath will have to win an Assembly election to validate his stay in office.
Interestingly, the Congress is yet to declare the official list of candidates for the state, which goes to poll in four phases between April 29 and May 19. Bhopal will vote in the third phase on May 12.
Last week, Nath, while leaving it to Singh to choose the seat of his liking, had declared that he had asked the senior Congress leader to contest from two or three seats where the Congress has tasted defeat for the last three decades.
After Nath’s unilateral suggestion, Singh had said that he was ready to contest from any seat as long as it was decided by "my leader Rahul Gandhi". On Saturday, Singh took the same line, saying he was happy to contest from any seat chosen by the AICC while refusing to acknowledge Nath’s announcement. The sniping between the two senior leaders followed reports that Singh was interested in contesting the general elections from Rajgarh, his home turf.
Nath’s unilateral announcements on both occasions have put Singh, who was CM between 1993 and 2003, in a bind – the Congress’s last victory in Bhopal parliamentary seat came in 1984. In the recent Assembly elections, however, Congress did well by wresting two seats from the BJP and retaining a third.
A Congress source told The Indian Express that Nath was trying to "cut Singh to size", because a refusal to contest from Bhopal will go against the former CM, and a loss will diminish his standing.
Currently a Rajya Sabha MP, Singh contested his last direct election in 2003. Even before the Congress officially announced its Bhopal candidate, controversial leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh said she was ready to contest against Singh because she wants to defeat "anti-nationals" like him.