In November, Madhya Pradesh is going to polls. With elections this close, there should have been ongoing preparations to go head on with the Shivraj Singh Chouhan led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state. But the Congress, as of now is facing a battle of its own, and this infighting is bound to hurt the prospects of Congress in the state. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress is divided into three factions- Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijay and Kamal Nath. Although, Digvijay Singh has been steadily side-lined for the last few months, Kamal Nath was made in-charge of the MP election campaign. Recently, according ABP news, Digvijay Singh, Janardan Dwivedi, Kamal Nath, Sushilkumar Shinde, Mohan Prakash, C P Joshi were dropped from Congress Working Committee (CWC).
Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Janardan Dwivedi, Kamal Nath, Sushilkumar Shinde, Mohan Prakash, C P Joshi dropped from CWC, says party. PTI
— ABP News (@abpnewstv) July 17, 2018
The main fight seems to be between the state president Kamal Nath and campaign committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia. However, there is still uncertainty about in which direction the former Congress CM of MP- Digvijay Singh- would swing.
Supporters of both CM aspirants- Kamal Nath and Scindia- are enthusiastically campaigning for their own favorites including extensive social media campaigns. In July, hashtag ‘Chief Minister Scindia’ trended on Twitter. Scindia’s supporters tweeted cards and posts saying he is the best person to be the next CM of MP.
— RaGa 4 PM (@RaGaMyPM) July 7, 2018
— Sharad Pawar (@KaabilMunda) July 7, 2018
बहुत हुई कमल की मार
अबकी बार#ChiefMinisterScindia की सरकार ? pic.twitter.com/HtSGUPYoru
— Scindia Fan Club (@ScindiaFans) July 7, 2018
— Premanda konthoujam (@Premanandakonth) July 7, 2018
— banjaran (@_banjaran) July 7, 2018
Hashtag ‘Chief Minister Scindia’ was in response to Kamal Nath’s supporters trending hashtag ‘Kamal Nath Next MP CM’ a day earlier.
#KamalnathNextMPCM Kamalnath sir is the one person, who is really very hardworking, State of Madhya Pradesh will be beneficial by him. He should be the CM face for upcoming assembly elections. @OfficeOfKNath pic.twitter.com/IYosXKe6xi
— Sandy (@transmissio) July 6, 2018
#KamalnathNextMPCM He is the only choice for the party in MP. He can defeat anyone. No congress leader is able to compete with Kamalnath ji.
— ?Barkha? (@BarkhaSeth2) July 6, 2018
— Samaresh Karmakar (@SamareshKarmak3) July 6, 2018
#KamalnathNextMPCM is working hard. Even more than other leaders of the party.
— Neeti (@neeti_ns) July 6, 2018
— PRABHAT SINGH (@Itz_prabhat) July 6, 2018
— Its Abhi (@The__abhi_) July 6, 2018
Guna is Jyotiraditya Scindia’s Lok Sabha constituency; Raghogarh is Digvijaya’s home, and Chhindwara is Kamal Nath’s Lok Sabha constituency.
After the hashtag ‘Kamal Nath Next MP CM’, the supporters of Scindia came into action and replied strongly with more creative tweets apparently targeting Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh besides attacking the BJP government in the state.
Factionalism has been one of the reasons why the Congress failed to counter the dominance of the BJP in the state assembly elections of 2008 and 2013. The dream of Congress to defeat Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the state will only remain dream if the Congress party fails to pacify different factions of its party in the state. Scindia also accepted that factionalism has harmed the electoral prospect of the party. In the state, the Congress party failed to work as a single unit which ultimately benefitted their opponent party.
In order to douse the fire of factionalism within the party, Gandhi scion carried out reshuffle on April 26. Kamal Nath was endowed with the responsibility of president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC). Jyotiraditya Scindia was anointed as the chairperson of the campaign committee for the state. In May, Digvijay Singh was named as the MP Congress’s coordination committee chief. However, this reshuffle failed to achieve its objective and the fire of factionalism is only intensifying.
As a result of massive infighting, the Congress party decided not to project the CM faces for the state assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Congress is worried that announcement of CM face might end up escalating intra-party rivalry that’s why they have decided not to elevate any one leader as the CM face.
As far as Madhya Pradesh is concerned, both Scindia and Kamanath are very strong faces of the Congress but Rahul Gandhi’s preference of CM is his close friend Scindia. In order to avoid further rift in the party, the high command played safe by declaring that the CM face will be announced after the elections. A Bhopal based party functionary have been quoted by Sunday Guardian saying, “The practice of the victorious MLAs deciding their leader is beneficial for the party as then the regional satraps will put in all their efforts to make sure that their candidates win the maximum number of seats. This will help the party do well in the elections. Now both Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath, who are the two strongest claimants for the CM’s chair in MP, rather than indulging in infighting and factionalism, are focusing on making sure that the candidates and sitting MLAs of their respective regions do well so that when the time comes, they have the maximum support for themselves.”
However, there is one more problem for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. Former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh is also not happy with the party as the Congress is not giving him any importance. Even his protégé Rahul Gandhi also royally snubbed him at his rally in Mandsaur, MP. Congress president Rahul Gandhi sidelined his political guru Digvijay Singh throughout the entire length of his speech, that too in Digvijay Singh’s home state. Not just Rahul Gandhi but even Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia too ignored the two terms Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The Congress party and its supporters are giving importance to Digvijay Singh only in posters.
For More details: Digvijaya Singh royally snubbed by Rahul Gandhi at Mandsaur rally, Madhya Pradesh
It looks like that this didn’t go down well with Digvijay Singh. It was also a bad idea for the Congress to insult Digvijay Singh because he is well aware of all the weaknesses and the strengths of the Congress party. He knows when to and where to push the right buttons. Digvijaya in the future could hurt Congress in a very grievous manner if he sets his mind to it, just as Shehzad Poonawala had done. Congress leaders should know better than irking Digvijaya Singh. BJP could benefit from Digvijaya Singh’s wrath if it is directed towards the Congress leaders who are going too far to sideline the senior leader.
For more details: Digvijaya Singh royally snubbed by Rahul Gandhi at Mandsaur rally, Madhya Pradesh
There are also rumors within the Congress circles that there is a tacit understanding between Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh to thwart any attempt by the AICC leadership to make Scindia as CM candidate.
One more problem for the Congress in the state is that the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Ajey Singh has been functioning “independently” by taking out “Nyaya Yatra” across Madhya Pradesh “on his own”. According to reports, Ajey Singh has aspiration to become CM face of the party but as the leadership made it crystal clear that CM candidate would be either one from Kamal Nath or Scindia. Some Congress workers even misbehaved with the AICC general secretary in-charge of MP Deepak Babaria for not paying any attention to the case of the CLP leader as nominee foe Chief Minister Candidate.
No matter how much other Congress leaders struggle to project themselves as the CM face, the truth is that Kamalnath and Scindia are the front-runners for CM candidate. There are several factors which have worked in their favor. As far as Kamal Nath is concerned, he has done a lot of good work for his constituency and enjoys the image of progressive leader across party lines. In 2007, Kamal Nath was named the FDI Personality of the Year by the FDI magazine and the Financial Times Business for his active efforts to attract foreign businesses to India, boost exports, and promote trade and investment. The Economic Times in the year 2008 honored him with the title “Business Reformer of the year”. Kamal Nath also possesses excellent organizational skills and also have vast administrative experience. He has strong connect with the voters. He retained his Chhindwara constituency in 2014 despite the BJP sweeping the elections in the state. He has been elected 9 times from the constituency. After 2014 general elections, he was elected as the pro-tem speaker being the senior most member of the 16th Lok Sabha. He has lot of political experience which will benefit the Congress immensely in the state if they manage to pacify factionalism. Kamal Nath is a consensus builder and is more capable of organization than Scindia to counter BJP’s formidable election machinery.
On the other hand, Scindia is not as experienced as Kamal Nath but he enjoys popularity among the youth. He is party’s new guard and also enjoys close proximity with Rahul Gandhi. However, when it comes to development his record is not so good. His constituency Guna is not considered as a developed region. There is no special achievement of Scindia except that he comes from a royal family and is a dynast. He is in politics because of his family. Scindia’s support base is only confined to areas around the Gwalior region. He hardly has any connect with the voters.
Kamal Nath is a better person to challenge might of the BJP rather than Scindia. Kamal Nath has acceptance across the party lines, caste and region. With his experience, he can offer tough competition to BJP’s might. He is experienced, popular and mature, qualities that Scindia lacks.
However, at the end of the day it’s the BJP which will have the upper hand. Under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chauhan, BJP is very strong in the state. When it comes to development he has exemplary track record and the BJP’s booth level strategy is way ahead of the Congress. On the other hand, the cadre division along the lines of intra-party leaders is bound to affect Congress’ organizational capability and strategy especially against the united BJP. The road is not easy for the Congress and under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi even the cake walk seems like a perilous path.