The Pradesh Congress committee presidents of three crucial states—Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar—are likely to be replaced with new leaders around the time Rahul Gandhi takes over as the party president, which is expected to happen before the last week of November.
In MP and Chhattisgarh, polls will take place in 12 months’ time.
The incumbent PCC chief of Madhya Pradesh, Arun Yadav, who was appointed in January 2014, will be replaced by his mentor and MP from Guna, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who had pushed for appointing Yadav as the state PCC chief in 2014.
At a recent party meet held in Bhopal, on the eve of the first visit by the newly appointed state-in-charge and general secretary Deepak Bawaria, senior Congress MLAs openly spoke against Yadav in front of him, accusing Yadav of mishandling the party in the state, leading to a virtual rout in the 2014 general elections.
“The MLAs are aware that the order replacing Yadav will come soon, hence, this open defiance. Arun Yadav tried hard, but he did not get the support from his party leaders who are stalwarts. The appointment of Scindia will be a big step as he is a very senior leader who can match any of the top state leaders and his appointment will surely put the Shivraj Singh Chouhan led state government, which is showing signs of anti-incumbency, on the back-foot,” a Bhopal-based party functionary said.
Former Union minister Kamal Nath, who was keen to become the state party president, has reportedly withdrawn from the “fight” after getting signals from the Rahul Gandhi camp that they would prefer Scindia. Similarly, former CM Digvijaya Singh, who is on a six-month and 3,300 km long padayatra of Narmada, has reportedly extended his support to Scindia.
In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, state president Bhupesh Baghel, who has somehow managed to alienate every senior state party leader, is likely to be replaced despite Baghel not forgetting to mention his “closeness” to Rahul Gandhi at the drop of his hat, senior Delhi-based party sources have indicated.
The Congress in Chhattisgarh is involved in a three-front battle as it faces BJP and the Ajit Jogi-led Janata Congress Chhattisgarh. The fact that all its senior state leaders, including Satyanarayan Sharma, Rabindra Choubey, Charan Das Mahant and Dhanendra Sahu, are virtually sidelined by Baghel, is not helping the party, which has been out of power in the state since 2003. The Sunday Guardian has accessed letters written by multiple state party functionaries, of various factions, to the party high command, seeking the removal of Baghel and the appointment of a new PCC chief.
Earlier in May, 18 senior state leaders had met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi where the issue of Baghel was “disused in passing”, but was not resolved.
However, the state party leaders have continued to share their discontent against Baghel on various party forums and they have reportedly been told to suggest new names for the post of party president which will be acceptable to everyone.
After the removal of B.K. Hariprasad, who was the in-charge of Chhattisgarh and the main “protector” of Baghel, the state party leaders are hopeful that the newly appointed state Congress president will take along all the leaders. In Bihar, where a split of the party is reportedly imminent, the incumbent acting state party president Kaukab Qadri, who was appointed after Ashok Chodhary was removed, is likely to be replaced with either Prem Chandra Mishra or Akhilesh Pratap Singh as the party is now looking to come out of the shadow of the RJD and Lalu Prasad Yadav who had reduced the Congress to “junior RJD” in the political corridors of power in Bihar.
“The split, which is being pushed by Chowdhary, is a possibility. We have asked Rahul Gandhi to intervene immediately and appoint a new president. We need a face from the upper castes; the Congress in Bihar was seen as a party of the upper caste, but that has changed due to people who are not aware of the ground realities. Qadri is a stop-gap arrangement and either Mishra or Singh should be appointed. We have shared our suggestions and concerns with the leadership and have been told that necessary action is being taken,” a senior Patna-based party leader said.