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Sidhi: Cong stalwart Arjun Singh's son wages prestige battle in once family stronghold

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Press Trust of India Sidhi (MP)
Just as the majestic Sone river flows unchallenged in the Vidhya region, Congress' stalwart late Arjun Singh's writ ran in this once Congress stronghold.
But it has been a 10-year political drought for the party and Singh's son Ajay is now battling it out against the BJP from Sidhi Lok Sabha seat to redeem the lost prestige.
63-year-old Ajay Singh, affectionately called 'Rahul bhaiya' by his supporters, has been fielded by the Congress against the BJP's sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Riti Pathak.
Singh, who has been a six-time MLA, a minister in the Digvijaya Singh government and twice the leader of opposition in Madhya Pradesh Assembly, suffered shock defeats- in the 2014 general elections from Satna and in last year's assembly polls from pocket borough Churhat in Sidhi District.
"I am contesting this time for prestige...my respect and the respect of this region which has produced Congress stalwarts like dau saheb (Arjun Singh), Indrajeet Patel (late senior Congress leader of the state and MP) and late Srinivas Tiwari (late speaker of MP assembly).
"Because of all of them, this area is known as a strong turf of the Congress party. Congress has been virtually wiped out in the last assembly polls from the Vindhya region and hence the prestige of everyone of us has gone down," Singh said while addressing an election meeting in Mundriya village of Beohari town.
Sidhi has been the home turf of the Arjun Singh family with the former chief minister and his son Ajay Singh winning from the Churhat assembly seat eight times since 1977.
The Vindhya region of MP comprises the districts of Sidhi, Rewa, Satna, Singrauli, Umaria and Shahdol. The Sidhi-Singrauli region is known for the rich sand-laden waters of of river Son and coal mining.
Ajay Singh was defeated by BJP's Sharadendu Tiwari by a margin of just over 6, 000 votes in the last assembly polls while he lost by 8,000 votes in the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014 from Satna.
The Satna seat is identified as the electoral waterloo of Arjun Singh, a former MP CM, as he lost to BSP's Sukhlal Kushwaha in 1996. He was then nominated by his party to the Rajya Sabha till he died in 2011.
"I don't know what went wrong in 2018. Who did what? While I understand that the entire might of the BJP was against me as I was the most critical of their 15-year government in Madhya Pradesh, it is difficult to swallow how was the party wiped out in this region during the last assembly polls.
"That is why, it is not my personal prestige but it is of the entire region, that has given some great and tall leaders for the Congress party, to ensure victory," he told PTI.
A gold medallist in MA (Economics), Ajay invokes the legacy of his father as he holds 9-10 election meetings everyday in the constituency and talks about the 'maan, samman' of the grand old party at stake in these polls.
"If you think that my father Dau saheb (Arjun Singh) served you and the area well in the past, then I seek your cooperation and blessings to serve you as your MP, " he says at an election meeting.
The former leader of opposition in the state assembly asks people to not get swayed away by the "theatrics" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi like "his promise Rs 15 lakh in every person's bank account". The Congress leader raised the issue of demonetisation, alleging that people were robbed of their hard earned savings.
He accuses Pathak of not giving proper attention to the area saying she was hardly seen among the people in the last five years.
Pathak, an LLB by education, dismisses these claims and is seeking votes on the development plank of Modi.
A former district panchayat chief, Pathak had defeated her Congress rival Indrajeet Patel, who died last year, by over 1.60 lakh votes in 2014.
"But who is contesting the Sidhi seat? Riti Pathak or Narendra Modi? Make your decision wisely," Singh tells the voters in chaste 'Bagheli' language adding that the Congress government in the state and an MP from the same region will provide a double-engine growth to the area.
Brajmohan Tiwari, a retired teacher, says while he would want Modi at the centre, Singh could gain "sympathy vote" of the locals this time.
"I have lived all my life in this region and neither I or my friends could believe that Ajay Singh lost from his home turf of Churhat. I think someone played mischief. I think he will get sympathy votes and will got to Delhi with redemption," the 62-year-old said.
Adarsh Patel, a cooperative bank employee, says people do talk about Singh's "surprise defeat" and the contest is now "between Modi and the Congress candidate".
Over 18 lakh people in Sidhi are eligible to vote on April 29 in the first phase of the four-tier polls in Madhya Pradesh.
In the last assembly polls, the BJP had won seven out of the eight seats in Sidhi.

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First Published: Apr 27 2019 | 7:50 PM IST

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