It seems that the Indian National Congress simply afford to relax. Its decimation in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections was just the start which exposed the skeletons in the party’s closet. Rahul Gandhi went on a holiday and refused to continue as the Party Chief and unsurprisingly Sonia Gandhi assumed the reigns of the party, yet again. The party is busy firefighting in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, all of which are slated to go to polls, later this year. Maharashtra Congress has seen a huge exodus of its leaders to the Shiv Sena and the BJP while in Haryana, ex-CM BS Hooda is threatening to quit and float a regional party. Amidst all this, a political storm is brewing in Madhya Pradesh which may well spell the end of the Kamal Nath government. Jyotiraditya Scindia’s supporters have vowed to quit the party if Scindia is not appointed the chief of the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit.
The elevation of Sonia Gandhi to the post of party president was seen as a move that will placate the rebels but it is clear that the gamble has failed with all Rahul loyalists now facing the heat as the veterans are again calling the shots in Congress. Hooda has publicly asked to remove Ashok Tanwar from the post of Haryana PCC Chief who happens to be a staunch Rahul Gandhi loyalist. It’s a foregone conclusion that Tanwar will be removed to placate Hooda and prevent him from quitting the party. Congress secured a wafer-thin majority in Madhya Pradesh and surprisingly, Jyotiraditya Scindia wasn’t made the Chief Minister. Kamal Nath has seen him as a challenger and a threat and has repeatedly tried to keep Scindia away from Madhya Pradesh which was evident when Scindia was made the Western Uttar Pradesh in-charge for the Lok Sabha polls leaving Kamal Nath to have his way in Madhya Pradesh. Both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh delivered a stinging rejection to the Congress so much so that Scindia lost his seat from Guna, a seat which was held by him and his family since decades. Kamal Nath continues to be the chief of the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit and yet again, Scindia has been transferred to Maharashtra to lead the screening of Congress’s candidates in the state.
On the abrogation of Article 370, Scindia didn’t toe the party line and supported the decision as it was in India’s best interests. After Hooda’s threat, now 200 of Scindia’s supporters have gone public saying they will quit the party if he is not given the post of PCC chief, currently held by Kamal Nath. The latter is fighting to save his government ever since the Lok Sabha results and is facing the heat from both the BJP and Scindia loyalists. Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar, Animal Husbandry Minister Lakhan Singh Yadav, Higher Education and Sports Minister Jeetu Patwari and Forest Minister Umang Singhar are all camping for Scindia to be made the state party chief.
Not just Scindia loyalists but even some Kamal Nath loyalists have backed Scindia on his stand on Article 370. Finance Minister Tarun Bhanot and Health Minister Tulsi Silawat, considered close to Kamal Nath have backed Scindia’s stand and stated that politicizing certain issues is wrong. With political circles abuzz with the speculation that Scindia is in touch with the BJP, things look ominous for the Congress. Digvijay Singh on his part is rooting for Ajay Singh, son of former Congress leader Arjun Singh to be made the state Congress chief. Digvijay who is in the last phase of his political innings and is himself fighting to stay relevant will side with Kamal Nath if push comes to shove as he realises that his best chance to stay relevant is to be with Kamal Nath and thus these two powers have been colluding against Scindia.
Rahul Gandhi’s 18-month tenure as the Congress Party chief resulted in the young scions of Congress gaining prominence while the veterans got being sidelined and now with Sonia back at the helm of affairs, a reversal is taking place. The logic that Gandhi’s are the superglue that is holding the party together will soon fall apart as the party is staring at a defeat in all poll-bound states.