Vindhya Pradesh (VP) occupies unique place in Madhya Pradesh. The present Madhya Pradesh was created on the recommendations of State Reorganisation Commission. Areas where two dialects were spoken were included in the new Madhya Pradesh. Most of the areas which were merged in Madhya Pradesh were under the rule of Rajas, Rewa being the largest among them.
Before the creation of Madhya Pradesh, Vindhya Pradesh was a part “C” state. At that time, head of the state was known as Lt. Governor. In the first general elections held in 1952, Congress captured power and Socialists formed the main opposition. After 1956 when Madhya Pradesh came into being, Shambhu Nath Shukla was the most well-known leader of the Congress. Despite numerically less number VP continued to play crucial role in MP politics.
Because of large number of Socialist MLAs they constituted main opposition in the MP assembly. During the 1952 elections an unprecedented event took place. During the election campaign, Jawahar Lal Nehru came to Rewa. A complaint was made to Nehru that the Congress has nominated one such person who was found guilty of corrupt practices. He was convicted when he was a minister. Nehru lost his temper and sought details about the person. He then decided to visit the constituency from which he was allotted Congress ticket.
A public meeting was arranged for Nehru. Addressing the public meeting he asked voters not to vote for the guilty. He also asked people to ensure his defeat. This was an extraordinary act when leader of a party was appealing to the people to reject the candidate named by the party. Nehru’s appeal hit the headlines and was considered to be an act of high moral. The person concerned was Shiv Pratap Singh who was Arjun Singh’s father.
After the lapse of few years VP was plunged into factional fight. Congress was the worst victim of the factional fight. The two factions were led by Brahmins and Thakurs. While Arjun Singh was projected as leader of Thakurs, Srinivas Tiwari claimed to be the leader of Brahmins. This rivalry ultimately resulted in the erosion of Congress base.
In 1980, Arjun Singh became the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The factional fight took a sordid turn when Arjun Singh removed Tiwari from his cabinet. So long as Arjun Singh remained Chief Minister there was no respite in factional fight.
Meanwhile, most of the Socialists joined the Congress. Among them were Sriniwas Tiwari, Achyutanand Mishra, KP Singh etc. Most of them got elected to the Assemble on Congress tickets.
Yamuna Prasad Shastri was among such socialists who did not join the Congress. Later he left the Socialist Party and joined the CPM. It was also an unprecedented act that Shastri joined the CPM at fag end of his life. In 1977 post emergency elections he was elected to the Lok Sabha by defeating Rewa Maharaja. Shastri lost his eyesight by the time he became a member of Parliament. Thus Shastri earned the distinction of being second blind member of Parliament. Before him Sadhan Gupta was the first blind MP. Gupta, a practicing lawyer from Bengal was elected on the CPI ticket.
VP has several other distinctions which include three Congress leaders who were appointed governors. They were Gulsher Ahmed who served as Governor of Himachal Pradesh, Arjun Singh and KP Singh who were appointed Governors of Punjab and Gujarat respectively.
Similarly three leaders – Gulsher Ahmed, Sriniwas Tiwari and Ramkishore Shukla served as speakers of the Vidhan Sabha. It may be mentioned here that vacuum caused by the disappearance of Socialists was filled by the BJP which at present has 29 MLAs as against Congress’ 16. Thus though small in area VP continued to play crucial role in the politics of Madhya Pradesh.
LS Herdenia is a senior journalist