What is Digvijaya Singh’s ‘apo­lit­i­cal’ walkathon by the river all about?

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

Former Mad­hya Pradesh chief min­is­ter Digvijaya Singh is pre­par­ing to set off on a jour­ney—a Nar­mada parikrama. Start­ing on Septem­ber 30, the 70-year-old Congress leader plans to walk an av­er­age 20 km a day to com­plete a 3,500 km walkathon up and down the river’s lengthy course in six months.

Al­though it comes sus­pi­ciously on the heels of Chief Min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Nar­mada Seva Ya­tra, Digvijaya insists there is noth­ing po­lit­i­cal about his plans. “The parikrama is ab­so­lutely apo­lit­i­’s a spir­i­tual pur­suit for me. I have also writ­ten to the party high com­mand to re­lieve me of all re­spon­si­bil­i­ties so that I can par­tic­i­pate in it,” he says. It’s been a long-stand­ing wish, which he says couldn’t ma­te­ri­alise till now for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. But now that he has the time, he in­tends to go ahead.

But un­like other devo­tees who com­mence the parikrama from the Nar­mada’s source at Amarkan­tak, Digvijaya plans to start walk­ing from Jy­otesh­war, the ashram of his spir­i­tual guru Swami Swa­roopanand Saraswati, on the banks of the river in Nars­ingh­pur district. Ap­par­ently, it was the guru who ad­vised him to take the jour­ney.

But the dyed-in-the-wool politi­cian that he is, peo­ple are cer­tain there is a po­lit­i­cal an­gle to Digvijaya’s ‘spir­i­tual’ en­ter­prise. Assem­bly elec­tions in MP are due in 2018, and it’s be­ing pointed out that his parikrama will end barely six months ahead of polls. Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers say the Congress leader’s jour­ney along the banks would be a handy way to de­flate some of the Chouhan gov­ern­ment’s over­stated claims on af­foresta­tion, pol­lu­tion con­trol of the Nar­mada and pro­hi­bi­tion.

Not just this, by the end of his parikrama, Digvijaya would have walked through a ter­ri­tory span­ning a hun­dred of the 230 assem­bly seats in the state. Way more than what Chouhan touched through his Nar­mada Seva Ya­tra.

MARCH PAST Digvijaya Singh dur­ing a 2015 protest against the Vya­pam scam in MP

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