In the winter of his career, former Congress Union minister Suresh Pachauri, 61, has played his last card. After spending 24 years in the Rajya Sabha, Pachauri has decided to contest an Assembly election for the first time. This announcement has caused an exodus from the party. Uday Pratap Singh, Congress MP from Hoshangabad and a former supporter, has decided to join the BJP, accusing Pachauri of selling Congress tickets. Several hundred Congressmen left the party en masse in Bhopal, as Pachauri managed to deny a ticket to PC Sharma, who is generally believed to be the only worthwhile Congress leader in the state capital.
Pachauri believes he has a legitimate claim to the chief ministership and has chosen to fight from the Bhojpur constituency near Bhopal.
Though he may be right in thinking that he should contest from what is also his ancestral home, it may be a trifle late for him to flex electoral muscles. He would do well to remember that when he was brought in as the CM candidate in 2008, Shivraj Singh Chouhan enjoyed a cakewalk to the Assembly. Interestingly, Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh has once lost from Bhojpur to former BJP chief minister Sunderlal Patwa. Patwa’s nephew Surendra is the sitting MLA.
What is however curious is that many believe that Pachauri is in cahoots with Shivraj. Bhojpur is heavily dominated by Kirars, a caste to which the BJP chief minister belongs. Without his tacit support, Pachauri could not have taken the risk.
In 2009, the Pachauri-led PCC had suffered a big blow when Rajkumar Patel, a close aide of Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, had failed to file his nomination papers from Vidisha against Sushma Swaraj.
Patel was immediately suspended and it took Digvijaya six years to get him reinstated. Now, Uday Pratap has done a Patel on a campaign led by Ajay Singh, who is backed by the Congress senior leader. Jyotiraditya Scindia is also in the run for chief minister, but if Shivraj comes to power again, it will be interesting to see if in Pachauri, he will get the Leader of Opposition he wants.