A day after Parliament’s Monsoon Session drew to a close, amid fire and brimstone, and a no-confidence motion that went along expected lines – with Manipur perhaps none the wiser – both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will be hitting the ground Saturday.
Modi is scheduled to visit Sagar district in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh to lay the foundation stone for a Rs 100-crore temple dedicated to 14th-century mystic poet and social reformer Sant Ravidas, followed by a public meeting.
The BJP faces a stiff challenge in its bid to return to power in the state from a combative Kamal Nath-led Congress. This will be Modi’s second visit to MP in just over a month, after his July 1 trip to Shahdol. BJP leaders said they are expecting up to 2 lakh people to attend the PM’s rally and the temple ceremony, which will mark the culmination of the BJP’s ‘Samrasta (harmony) Yatras’, to reach out to Dalits. Five such yatras started from different parts of the state on July 25, and as per the BJP, would culminate in Sagar with “soil gathered from 53,000 villages and water from 315 water bodies”.
Sant Ravidas enjoys a huge following among the Dalits, and earlier this year, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan held a ‘Sant Ravidas Mahakumbh’ to celebrate the saint’s life and works, as well as announced a special pilgrimage train to take his disciples to his birthplace, Varanasi. The Chouhan government has also built a Rs 3.5-crore Sant Ravidas Temple in Maihar in Satna district.
The Scheduled Castes comprise around 17% of the state’s population, with Sant Ravidas’s followers believed to form the biggest chunk among them. Of the state’s total 230 Assembly seats, 35 are reserved for Dalits. In the last Assembly elections, the BJP had won 18, with 17 going to the Congress. Protests over a perceived dilution of the SC/ST Act, and the government crackdown, were seen as having turned the Dalit vote away from the BJP in 2018, causing the number of SC-reserved seats won by it to plunge.
If Modi will be lending his shoulder to the BJP’s efforts in MP, Rahul will be in his Lok Sabha constituency Wayanad in Kerala. It will be a triumphant moment for the Congress leader, whose Lok Sabha membership was restored days ago, over four months after he was disqualified following a two-year sentence in a defamation case.
Rahul last visited Wayanad in April, after his disqualification as an MP. Addressing a Congress-led UDF rally at Kalpetta town of Wayanad district along with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other leaders at the time, Rahul had said that the disqualification would only “deepen his relationship” with the people of the constituency, which had given him a face-saver in 2019 given his defeat from family pocketborough Amethi.
“MP is only a position, the BJP can take away that tag, they can put me in jail, take away my house and my posts, but they cannot stop me from representing the people of Wayanad,’’ Rahul had said.
For Saturday’s public meeting, the Congress has chosen the same venue as April – Kalpetta.
BJP president J P Nadda is also in poll mode, and arrived in West Bengal Friday evening to begin a three-day visit of the state, during which he will hold a meeting with party office-bearers to take stock of the 2024 election preparations, as well as with the party’s winning candidates in the recently held rural elections and “victims of poll violence”.
Nadda’s visit comes amidst the rush to sew up panchayat boards by parties, even as the State Election Commission tallies up results of the rural polls.
Also on Nadda’s itinerary is a visit to the Dakshineswar temple.
Back in Haryana, by the state government’s own admission on Friday, conditions remained “still critical and tense” in Nuh, compelling it to extend till Sunday the suspension of mobile Internet and SMS services in the district. Meanwhile, Saturday will see CM Manohar Lal Khattar continue with his weekly interactions with beneficiaries of PM Awas Yojana via audio conference, for their feedback.
The interactions are part of Khattar’s ‘CM ki Vishesh Charcha’ initiative, to reach beneficiaries of Central and state schemes directly, in the presence of local senior officials.
If the BJP in Haryana hopes that the drama over the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its tainted former head Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh ends soon, in a state where the issue drew the most anger, there is little chance of that.
Elections for the executive body of the WFI scheduled for Saturday have now been stayed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, after a new body representing Haryana wrestlers filed a challenge to the existing state body. The next hearing is on August 28.
The polls are to see a contest between Sanjay Singh, a loyalist of Brij Bhushan, and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anita Sheoran.
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Brij Bhushan, who is facing a police probe into allegations of sexual exploitation by several women wrestlers, has so far escaped any punitive action from his party.
The WFI, before being suspended by the sports ministry, had set May 7 as the election date. Then the Indian Olympic Association-appointed ad-hoc panel governing the WFI scheduled the elections for July 6, but was forced to put off the polls to July 11 after disaffiliated state bodies from Maharashtra, Haryana, Telangana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh approached it for a hearing, claiming that their dismissal was not appropriate. The polls could not go ahead even on July 11, after the Gauhati High Court stayed the elections when the Assam Wrestling Association sought the right to participate in the poll process.
The Supreme Court had then paved the way for elections to be held on August 12 after staying the Gauhati High Court order.
— with PTI inputs