Congress in a spot as Scindia drifts away, MP unit's power struggle worsens

scindia kamal nath
The Congress leadership is trying hard to downplay the power struggle between Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and former MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, but the rift is there for anyone to see. Scindia is not only upset with the chief minister but also the party brass, which had sided with Nath, who also heads the Congress’ state unit, in the race to the top post.

In the run-up to the 2018 Assembly polls, Scindia was named the head of the MP Congress campaign committee. He faced intense attack from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Undeterred, Scindia campaigned aggressively and played a key role in the Congress’ return to power in the state after 15 years.

After the win, a tussle for the chief minister’s post broke out between Nath and Scindia, but the former prevailed. Dejected, Scindia was hoping that the party brass would at least anoint him or his nominee Madhya Pradesh Congress chief, but the top leadership kept delaying the decision. Following this, Scindia started targeting Nath’s government over one issue or another. 

First, he demanded strict action against illegal sand mining, then he removed the Congress’ reference from his Twitter bio, and recently he said if the party reneged on its manifesto, he would take to the streets, to which Nath replied: “Let him do that”. Scindia had also endorsed the Centre's decision to abrogate Sections of Article 370, against the party’s stand on the matter. 

The state Congress unit, too, appears to be divided on the rift between the two heavyweights — some call it “pressure politics”, while others feel Scindia is being sidelined.  

State’s Minister for General Administration Govind Singh said taking to the streets was the job of the Opposition, and if Scindia had any complaint, he should discuss it with the party and the government.

On the other hand, Minister for Women and Child Development Imarti Devi said if Scindia took the path of demonstration, state Congress workers would follow him. Six ministers in Nath’s Cabinet belong to the Scindia camp. They are Imarti Devi, Govind Singh Rajput, Pradumnya Singh Tomar, Tulsiram Silawat, Prabhuram Choudhary, and Mahendra Singh Sisodia. Also, at least 22 MLAs from Gwalior, Chambal, and Malwa are with Scindia.

 Not long ago, Scindia loyalist and first-time Congress MLA Suresh Rathkheda said: “Let’s make it crystal clear that Maharaj (Scindia) is not leaving the Congress. But the day Maharaj wants, he can form a new party and tell how powerful he is in the entire state. The day Shrimant (Scindia) launches a new party, I’ll be the first to join him.”

 Scindia is also miffed at the news of the party planning to send its General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the Upper House from Madhya Pradesh. In April, three seats from the state are falling vacant, and two of them will go to the Congress. Former CM Digvijaya Singh is set to be re-elected and Scindia was eyeing the second seat for himself. 

Power equations
A close aide of Scindia said: “As many as 25-30 MLAs are directly in touch with Maharaj (Scindia). He is under a lot of pressure, especially from his supporters.” Sources said Scindia was waiting for the party’s decision on the MPCC president and the selection of candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections before taking a call. 

Scindia joining the BJP remains only a vague possibility. He may float a party. 

The BJP, after losing many of its strongholds in the recent past, is keen on putting together its government in Madhya Pradesh. BJP MP Ganesh Singh not long ago said: “Scindia was neither appointed president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress nor chief minister. All is not well in the Congress.”

 Political analyst Arvind Tiwari said: “Bitterness between Scindia and Nath is no secret. Scindia never hid his ambition of becoming chief minister. He also made it clear to the party leadership. But the party used him in the run-up to the Assembly polls, only to discard him after the victory. Scindia is considered to be close to Rahul Gandhi, but he lost his grip after  losing the Lok Sabha election.” 

On the other hand, Congress spokesperson Syed Jafar said: “The BJP is trying to destabilise our government in the state and spreading rumours. Scindia has repeatedly said he can’t even dream of leaving the party. I think this is enough to put an end to these rumours.”

 The party is currently in damage-control mode. State Public Relations Minister P C Sharma said that “all is well in the Madhya Pradesh Congress”. After challenging Scindia to do whatever he desired, Nath sarcastically said: “How  could I  be angry with Scindia, if I couldn’t be angry with Shivraj Singh Chouhan!”

Sources close to Scindia said he was in no mood to take a step back. “If things don’t go right for him, he may surprise everyone, including his party,” a source said.

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