With the post of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief up for the grabs, the infighting within the state Congress unit is conspicuous. If left to fester, this infighting could destabilise the state government .
After averting a crisis in Haryana following the banner of revolt raised by the Hoodas, the beleaguered Congress is now facing a mini-crisis in Madhya Pradesh.
The Madhya Pradesh Congress unit, beset with infighting and factionalism for the better part of the last decade, had managed to set away their differences to pull off a narrow win over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2018 assembly elections. Now, with Chief Minister and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Kamal Nath set to divest himself of the party’s command, fresh infighting has ensued with various camps and leaders in the fray vying for the top job.
The most prominent aspirer among them is Gwalior royal Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is currently at a loose end having resigned as general secretary in July following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation, post his shock loss in the general elections from the family pocket borough of Guna.
A couple of weeks ago, before the tug-of-war for the PCC chief’s post was fully on, Scindia was made the chairman of the Congress Screening Committee for Maharashtra. The timing was significant — the announcement came on August 22, a day before Nath called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi. While the decision made political sense — the Scindias have their roots in Maharashtra — his supporters have seen this as a ploy to keep Scindia away from Madhya Pradesh and rob him off the PCC chief’s position.
On the other hand, two-time Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh has thrown his weight behind Ajay Singh, former Leader of Opposition in the assembly and son of Congress stalwart Arjun Singh. Ajay Singh, known as ‘Rahul Bhaiya’ to his followers, had been angling for the job ever since he lost his election to the assembly in 2018.
Nath reportedly is in favour of a tribal candidate — Nath has apparently nominated incumbent home minister Bala Bachchan — taking up the role, as he doesn’t want another power centre to emerge and loosen his grip on the party.
Scindia loyalists have been demanding how he deserved to be the PCC chief after having played a big part in the Congress’ win in 2018 and narrowly losing out to Nath in the race for chief ministership. Although he was offered the post of deputy chief minister by Rahul Gandhi then, Scindia had turned it down.
In New Delhi, Scindia is conspicuous by his absence in the Lok Sabha after being a constant fixture next to Rahul Gandhi in the opposition benches from 2014. Post 2004, this is the lowest phase in Scindia’s political career, and he is expected to weigh his ‘political options’ if he is denied the post of PCC chief.
Although Scindia is sure to be accommodated in the next round of the triennial Rajya Sabha elections from Madhya Pradesh, due in 2020, the Gwalior royal is not enthused by that prospect. For the Congress, they not only have to figure out a way to quell Scindia’s rebellion and pressure tactics, but also ensure the stability of its state government as it is technically a minority government propped up by independents and others.
On his part, Nath has been smart in keeping his flock together and proactively engineering defections from the BJP — it was dubbed a ‘Ghar Wapasi’ as both the BJP defectors were originally Congress turncoats — to bolster the numbers in time to pass the state budget. However, he cannot take Scindia’s rebellion lightly, for the latter has a number of legislators backing him.
More than Nath, it is Singh who wants to deny Scindia the PCC chief’s post as the former CM doesn’t want to lose his clout within the state government. Recently, Scindia loyalist and state forest minister Umang Shingar had fired the first salvo when he accused Singh of running a proxy government in the state. Scindia promptly jumped in, asking Nath to seek counsel from his council of ministers than allowing interference from outside.
Nath was in Delhi over the weekend to meet Sonia Gandhi for the second time in a fortnight to avert a crisis and to find an amicable solution to the mini-crisis. Sonia Gandhi has asked senior Congress leader and former defence minister AK Antony to intervene in the matter and sought a report from the Congress’ state in-charge Deepak Babaria.
Though much was made of Scindia’s discordant note on Article 370, he had promptly fallen in line when the Congress Working Committee (CWC) passed a carefully-worded resolution following the enactment of legislation in both houses. Scindia beating a hasty retreat on Article 370 notwithstanding, he is unlikely to be mollified by anything short of the PCC chief’s post.Anand Kochukudy is a political commentator and editor, The Kochi Post. Views are personal.The Great Diwali Discount!
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