Until now, no decision has been taken on the next state party president.

 

NEW DELHI: When he first entered active politics in 2001, he was seen and written about as someone who would be a part of the next generation Congress leaders, a core member of team Rahul Gandhi, who would take the Congress into the future.

Eighteen years later, senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia is engaged in a tough fight to stay relevant in politics, especially Madhya Pradesh politics, where one after the other, he has suffered setbacks in the last few years.

The latest of such debacles has come with the Congress leadership “refusing” to make him the state Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, despite Scindia, through his supporters, stating that he wanted the post. Till now, no final decision has been made by the high command on the issue.

Scindia’s “challenging” time started during the 2013 MP Assembly elections when, despite his supporters—and maybe rightly so—telling the party leadership that he was the best candidate to lead the party into the campaign and hence should be declared as the CM face, he was not declared the CM nominee and amidst infighting between the Congress satraps, the party lost the election and the chance to come back to power in the state where it had last won in 1998.

Five years later, in November 2018, when the party came to power in the state—a result which was attributed to many factors, including the attraction for Scindia among the young voters—Scindia decided to come out in the open and gave a message that he was the most suitable face for the position of chief minister.

Stories attributed to named and unnamed sources, who were close to Scindia, started appearing in the media that almost 40 of the 114 of the winning Congress MLAs wanted him to be appointed as the chief minister. Those who were not in Scindia’s camp, however, said that the “40 MLAs” was an exaggerated number and he just had 10-15 MLAs who were in his support.

At the end of the political drama, during which both Scindia and Kamal Nath, who was the other CM nominee, camped in Delhi for several days, the then president of the party, Rahul Gandhi, whom the supporters of Scindia saw as one of his closest friends, decided to appoint the veteran Kamal Nath as the CM, much to the surprise of Scinida’s supporters.

One of the primary reasons behind this decision of Rahul Gandhi was the role played by former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who a party MLA described to The Sunday Guardian, as the “karta-dharta’ of MP Congress. Digvijaya Singh prevailed upon Rahul Gandhi to appoint Kamal Nath as the CM, leaving Scindia, again, to ponder upon his “importance” in the party.

Subsequently, during the Cabinet formation and distribution of other largesse by way of political appointments, supporters of Scindia were sidelined.

Scindia’s support for the abrogation of Article 370, which was totally opposite to the stand taken by his party, and his recent statement that the state government in MP has failed to stop illegal sand mining, have led to very strong speculation in the political corridors of Bhopal and Gwalior that Scindia was looking at “other political options”.

However, Bhopal-based senior Congress functionary and party spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi told The Sunday Guardian that Scindia has always been a leader who will abide by whatever the party leadership decides.

“His style of politics has always been of dignity. He has never asked for any position, whatever has been asked by the party from him, he has carried it out, both in the government and in the organisation. He has very categorically said that whatever party president Sonia Gandhi decides for him, he will follow it,” Chaturvedi said.

Perhaps the most debilitating setback for the 48-year-old Scindia in recent times came after he lost his family bastion seat of Guna to a “novice”, K.P. Yadav of BJP, by over 1.20 lakh votes in the general elections that were held earlier this year.

“It was a shock for us, more so for Scindiaji. We never imagined that he will lose Guna. We still do not know what happened,” a long-time family friend of Scindia told The Sunday Guardian.

For the first time since 2001, when he entered politics, after the untimely and tragic demise of his father Madhavrao Scindia, Jyotiraditya Scindia is out of power, from the state and from the central leadership, and that perhaps explains his desire to be appointed as the president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress.

A Gwalior-based party functionary said: “He needs this position. Post May 2019, he has been pushed back to the political position of 2001, when he was just starting. The number of his supporters in the central leadership and in the state is decreasing, as they feel that he is losing his say with the high command. He was not appointed the CM face in 2013, he was not made the CM in 2018, his loyalists were ignored during the Cabinet formation and now his candidature for the post of the party’s president post, too, is being ignored by the party leadership. Rather than letting Scindia emerge as the next generation leader in the state, the regional satraps have worked together to tie him down. The party should at least consider him for a Rajya Sabha nomination from MP next year as vacancies will be arising then.”

Another close associate of Scindia said that he has not given indications that he was looking to join the BJP.

“We have got no such indications, none of his ‘near and dear’ ones have been asked about what they think about this (Scindia joining the BJP). As you are aware, in MP, there is no place for any third front, so if a situation does arise as you are referring to, it is clear that he will join hands with the BJP,” he said.

According to him, every senior leader left Madhya Pradesh, post 2003 after the Congress lost power, leaving only Scindia and other state leaders like Arun Yadav to fight the BJP.

One major reason for Scindia’s demands, though it may be genuine, being continuously ignored is because the party leadership feels that Scindia is not a pan-state leader—neither does he have the resources and networking like Kamal Nath, nor the one-to-one personal chemistry with other state functionaries that Digvijaya Singh has. A Bhopal-based political observer said: “Scindia should have worked to strengthen himself in MP; he did not, as he was focused more on Gwalior and Delhi. If he was strong in Bhopal and Madhya Pradesh, he would not be in a situation that he is now. Digvijaya Singh, after he was ‘banished’ from the Delhi Durbar, did not lose his touch with the people and leaders in Madhya Pradesh and showed his worth in the 2018 elections. Scindia is not someone who does ‘dirty politics’. The party leadership believes that Scindia’s ‘power’ is limited to Gwalior and somewhat ‘exaggerated’. That is why no one is taking the reports seriously that he might even join the BJP. As of now, Scindia has no space to manoeuvre. At best, he will get the support of 15 MLAs if he decides to leave the Congress. What will he do then? Join the BJP? Float his own party? There are no long term benefits for him if he decides to do that.”

According to him, with him not getting the post of the state PCC chief, Scindia is left with no option but to wait for the next general elections or for the next Assembly polls, a five-year wait that is likely to damage his political stature even more, perhaps fatally.

 

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