Hard to balance between Jyotiraditya Scindia, and Kamal Nath-Digvijaya lobbies.

 

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is finding it hard to work out a middle path in Madhya Pradesh that will keep both Jyotiraditya Scindia, on one side, and Kamal Nath-Digvijaya Singh, on the other, happy.

It is this lack of consensus on how to balance the interest and demands of the two sides that has led to delay in the appointment of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, a role that is presently being played by Chief Minister Kamal Nath despite being appointed the state Chief Minister almost one year ago.

After taking over the chair of the Congress president, again, Sonia Gandhi had made it clear that she was strictly going to enforce the rule of “one man-one chair”.

According to multiple Bhopal-based Congress functionaries, they were told by the senior leaders that the appointment of the PCC chief would be done after the Jhabua bypolls, the result of which was announced on 24 October (the Congress candidate won).

Then, the announcement date got extended to Diwali, which was on Sunday, 27 October. Now, no one knows when the decision will be taken. “It is being unnecessarily delayed. Now we are being told that it will done after Rahulji returns to India. There is no point in procrastinating over it. Whoever is appointed, some or the other group will be angry,” a party MLA said.

According to Bhopal-based party leaders, since Scindia was interested in becoming the state president, something which was being opposed, privately if not publicly, by Kamal Nath and Singh, the Congress president was not being able to take a quick decision.

A Bhopal-based party functionary said: “If Scindia becomes the state party chief, the differences between the two factions will soon come out in the public as the discord between the two groups, and those who represent them, is very deep. If Scindia is not made the state Pradesh Congress Committee chief, he will have nothing to show to his supporters. His supporters believe that he was the right man to become the Chief Minister of the state, something that was taken away from him. And if this post too is not given to him, then the Scindia camp might ‘burst’.”

Another crucial element in the whole political drama is that the Rajya Sabha tenure of stalwart Digvijaya Singh in ending in April next year, in less than 160 days. This has led to his supporters stating that since Singh played a big role in galvanising workers in the state—that ultimately led to the defeat of the BJP government after 15 years—he should be rewarded by making him the state party president.

“Though he is not the state president, it is Singh who is handling the party affairs in the state and has done a good job with that. He shares an excellent relationship with Kamal Nath. Both are mature enough not to enter into each other’s political space. The judicious response to the present imbroglio should be to give the position of the state party president to Singh. Scindia’s time will come one day,” a former party MLA close to Singh said.

According to another of his close aides, Singh was likely to be renominated to the Rajya Sabha. “He will be sent to the Rajya Sabha again in April.”

Sources close to Scindia said that it was fruitless to talk about whether he was open to being nominated to Rajya Sabha or not. “Rajya Sabha elections are next year. The appointment of state PCC is this year. The party should look into all parameters and decide where Scindia will be more useful—in the Rajya Sabha or in the state. He was not allowed to become the Chief Minister and he accepted the commands without any resistance. We are sure that he is going to get a big responsibility in the organisation, if not state Pradesh Congress Committee chief, then general secretary of a big state,” a senior party leader close to Scindia said.

Independent political observers said that Scindia was unlikely to be too excited about the Rajya Sabha seat, and perhaps rightly so.

A senior journalist who has closely observed the politics of Madhya Pradesh since the 1990s said: “Scindia has to stay relevant in active politics; he also has to keep in mind that he is not even a Lok Sabha MP anymore. Many before him, who came from royal families, were lost in oblivion as they lived under the false impression that nobody could sideline them. If he continues to do ‘Delhi politics’ as he has been branded of doing all these years, he will never be able to create his own following in the state. And that explains his desire to come to MP and become the state president. He knows that Singh and Kamal Nath are in their last leg of political careers and if he doesn’t assert himself now, he will lose the space to some other young leader.”

Commenting on the developments, or rather the lack of them, senior Congress leader and party spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said that there was no “delay” on this issue.

“The senior leadership needs to deliberate on such topics so that a right decision is taken and a capable man is appointed. As far as reports that Jyotiraditya Scindia is staking a claim for the Pradesh Congress Committee post are concerned, he has always maintained, and also proved that by his actions, that he will always follow whatever the party leadership asks him to do,” he said.

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