Meet Congress' Umang Singhar, the tribal leader who took on Digvijaya Singh

Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Umang Singhar has recently trained his guns at former CM Digvijay Singh
Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Umang Singhar, one of the prominent tribal faces of the Congress in the state, was recently in the limelight when he hurled allegations against former chief minister and veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. 

Singhar said, “Digvijaya Singhji is running the government from behind the curtains. This is known to everyone. People of the state know it and so do the workers of the party.”

Political watchers recall how the Singhar family maintains a traditional political rivalry with Singh. Singhar’s aunt and former deputy chief minister, the late Jamuna Devi, was Singh’s critic. When Singh was chief minister, then deputy chief minister Jamuna Devi said: “I am burning in Digvijaya’s tandoor (oven).”

If experts are to be believed, other than traditional bitterness it is the sense of insecurity that forced Singhar to attack Singh. Singh is promoting another tribal leader from Dhar, Hiralal Alawa, who is a first-time MLA from the Manavar seat. But there is an underlying story to it. Singhar has found an immediate supporter in Jyotiraditya Scindia, who came to his rescue after his remarks and said that the government should work without outside interference.

Singhar joined active politics in 1998 and in 2002 he became Dhar district president of the Youth Congress. In his initial days in politics, he used to be the election manager of Jamuna Devi. 

In the next 15 years, he made a mark for himself. Singhar is one of those youth leaders whom Rahul Gandhi came to depend on. Henceforth it is certain that he has direct access to the Delhi darbar of the Congress. Impressed by his leadership qualities, Gandhi appointed him secretary in the All India Congress Committee. Later he, along with R P N Singh, was given charge of the party’s Jharkhand affairs.

Singhar (45) has all the winning qualities in him. He has a political background, has developed close ties with the youth of his constituency, and has cordial relations with the Gandhi family. Not surprising that he won three consecutive elections before getting birth in the state cabinet. Singhar won the Gandhwani seat in 2008, 2013, and 2018. His father, Dayaram Singhar, was a judge. He is a law graduate. His wife is a homemaker and has two sons.

Singhar is considered one of the most technologically efficient ministers. He is one of the initial users of info-tech in elections campaigns. He used IT and social media effectively during his election campaigns. He is using a video conferencing van to communicate with voters since early 2000s. When he became forest minister, he announced using satellite imagery to expose “plantation scams” of the previous government.

The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government conducted a drive to plant 66 million saplings along the Narmada river in a single day. The government had later applied for a mention of this in the Guinness World Records. However, after spending crores of rupees and engaging nearly the entire government machinery in the drive, the government failed to get world record status. Singhar said he had checked a site in Betul and found only 2,343 plants; the records said there were 15,625. 

Singhar is young and ambitious. He has played his cards well. Only time will tell whether his moves were sensible or he is being merely used as a pawn in this game of check-mate.

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