Bhopal: Government employees and the teaching class constitute a formidable vote bank which no political class can ignore. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh will vouch for that. If he has been out of power for so long, it is because of sarkari babus who still nurse a grudge against him.
Digvijay, who is contesting from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, tendered an apology on Wednesday for treating them shabbily during his tenure as chief minister (1993-2003). But will it be enough to placate the influential class?
At the fag end of his second stint in 2002, when the employees met him to demand release of dearness allowance and wages, Digvijay had remarked that elections are won by poll management and not by appeasing government employees.
The comment triggered a huge uproar and it proved to be the last nail on the Congress government’s coffin. In the election that followed, Digvijay was wiped off the state’s political landscape. He shifted base to Delhi and his efforts to revive lost ground in the state in the succeeding years met with little success.
But he senses an opportunity this time to renew ties with Bhopal 15 years after he was thrown out of power. An apology, however, may not work in his favour.
Bhopal has traditionally been a BJP stronghold. The last time the Congress won a Lok Sabha election here was in 1984, in the aftermath of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
The Congress won three Assembly seats under the parliamentary seat in the 2018 Assembly polls, but this may not work in Digvijay’s favour. The over 2 lakh government employees in Bhopal may not vote for him.
There is high probability of the BJP fielding former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. In such a scenario, the battle could end up being a one-sided affair. After all, Chauhan had reinstated 28,000 daily wage employees that Digvijay had sacked when he chief minister.
“Digvijaya Singh had been extremely rude, not only to daily-wage employees, but also regular government employees. He paid the price for his arrogance. I don’t think his seeking apology is going to help him,” a Bhopal-based daily-wage employee told news portal Firstpost.
Digvijay has accepted present Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s challenge to contest from Bhopal. If he wins, he would reverse a 35-year-old history in the constituency. If he loses, he will have to apply other tricks to win over voters and remain a viable factor in Madhya Pradesh politics.