Ahead of the Madhya Pradesh by-elections, there has been quite a furore amid political parties in the state - from party’s candidates defecting to the opposition at the last minute to allegations of pressure to withdraw nomination. Against this backdrop, a viral audio, purportedly of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has gone viral.
What does the audio say?
In it, the former Chief Minister can purportedly be heard urging SP candidate Roshan Mirza to withdraw his nomination. Singh offers the Gwalior candidate a ticket for the post of corporator. The clip was released by Mirza and was reportedly made when Mirza was filing nomination. According to the SP leader, a Congress leader (he did not mention a name) had also offered him a sum of Rs 10 lakh to withdraw his nomination.
"Digvijaya Singh called me and told me to withdraw from upcoming bye-polls. He said I'll give you Councilor's ticket. I told him I won't withdraw and will contest," Mirza told news agency ANI on Thursday.
What does the Congress say?
The allegations do not seem to have fazed the Congress. As party Spokesperson K K Mishra put it, asking someone to back out was not "unparliamentary" conduct.
"If we're asking or requesting someone to back out in our favour, it's not a crime. At least, we aren't buying MLAs like others. Whatever is being interpreted about Digvijaya Singh is wrong," he said.
While Nath is leading the Congress campaign from the front, Digvijaya Singh has confined himself to his pockets of influence. A few days ago, he had alleged that some police officials were influencing voters in favour of the ruling BJP.
What do the opposition parties and leaders have to say?
Reacting to the controversy, BJP leader Lokendra Parashar has opined that Singh may very well have made the audio viral himself. "Digvijaya Singh has come out of his hole at last stage of elections. He doesn't believe in democracy but in management. In past, he said that elections are won by management," Parashar was quoted as saying by ANI.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan accused state Congress president Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh of threatening the government officers and employees, urging the Election Commission to take cognizance. Jyotiraditya Scindia, who also walked out of the party and joined the BJP has also hit out at the Congress faction.
Why are these polls significant?
By-elections to 28 Assembly seats in the state are scheduled on November 3. Twenty-five of these seats fell vacant after sitting Congress MLAs resigned and joined the BJP, leading to the collapse of the Kamal Nath-led state government, while three seats fell vacant due to the death of their sitting MLAs.
The BJP at present has 107 MLAs and it needs to win just nine more seats to reach the magic figure of 116 - the simple majority mark in the 230-member house. In contrast, the Congress with its current strength of 88 legislators needs to win all the 28 seats to reach the majority mark of 116.