Infighting in state units of Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh intensifies over leadership issue

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Four states are about to go for assembly elections prior to the Lok Sabha 2019 general elections, namely Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. In three of these four states- Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan- the Congress will not project Chief Minister faces for the state assembly elections. This decision is the direct result of massive infighting within the Congress state units. 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 CM face.

In Rajasthan, the struggle for party’s CM contender is between Sachin Pilot and former CM Ashok Gehlot.

The decision has come at a time when the Rajasthan unit of the Congress party is very strongly demanding the high command to announce the name of Chief Ministerial candidate. According to Sunday Guardian report, senior leaders of Madhya Pradesh have been told that the name of the CM will be decided after the elections according to wishes of victorious MLAs in case the Congress comes to power.

While the BJP, most of the times, decides the CM face after the polls, the Congress party has the culture of fighting the state assembly elections after announcing the name of CM candidate. The main reason behind this tradition is, admittedly the Grand Old Party of India has more regional satraps who used to command a loyal voter base. However, in recent times this has changed a lot in the absence of a strong and decisive national leadership. Rahul Gandhi’s inept leadership has caused a great damage to the regional leadership of the Congress. The Congress party lost strong regional leaders Birender Singh and Himanta Biswa Sarma to its principal opposition-BJP. Himanata Biswa Sarma especially played pivotal role in bringing almost entire pocket into BJP’s pocket. Careless attitude of Rahul Gandhi ensured his exit from the Congress and his exit became the curse for the Congress party in the northeast states. Rahul Gandhi lacks the prowess to broker the interests of the regional satraps; they are fighting among themselves for leadership and various other resources, escalating the crisis in the party.

This infighting will definitely harm the Congress in these states where polls are around the corner but it will hurt them most in Rajasthan where according to popular media perception Bharatiya Janata Party is on the shakiest ground.  The mainstream media with all enthusiasm is painting a dull image of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prospects in the upcoming state assembly elections for Rajasthan. But contrary to the perception created by Lutyens’ media, BJP is very strong in the state as compared to the Congress party which is suffering from massive infighting over the chief minister’s post. This ongoing infighting is only going to damage the political prospect of the Congress and as result of that BJP would get the benefit of it in the elections. Former CM of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot has expressed the desire to remain in the state to solidify his position for the CM chair. While Rahul Gandhi is keen on considering Sachin Pilot’s name for the CM post, some statements given by Gehlot and his supporters have wreaked havoc in the camps of the Congress. Both camps are locked in a game of muscle flexing and posturing.

For More details: Infighting in Rajasthan Congress over chief minister’s post

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress is divided into three factions- Scindia, Digvijay and Kamalnath. 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).

It looks like after being dropped out of the CWC, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath abstained from attending the no-confidence motion despite the whip being issued. Speaking to media, he had said, “For me the priority is Madhya Pradesh. I have seen many such no-confidence-motions in the last 38 years.  I have experience of such debates”.

For More details: Defeat in the floor test marks the defeat of 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 student 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.

For More details: Digvijaya Singh royally snubbed by Rahul Gandhi at Mandsaur rally, Madhya Pradesh

Both the leaders are very strong faces of the Congress in the state 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.” Even after this if the party fails to pacify infighting in the state then the Congress’ performance in the state would only register further decline. It should pacify the infighting in the party in order to improve its performance in the state. Under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chauhan, BJP is very strong in the state. So, it is almost impossible for the Congress to defeat the Shivraj Singh in the state.  Even the mouthpiece of the Congress party- National Herald- also reported the same. It has reported that according to a survey by Spick Media, BJP will sail through if Congress and BSP were to participate separately in the elections. However, even if the BSP and the Congress would enter into an alliance, the BJP will be able to cross the majority mark. This seems to be an abject surrender on the part of the Congress party in the face of unwavering support for the sitting chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

For more details: National Herald predicts easy win for BJP in Madhya Pradesh

The Congress adopted the same strategy in Chhattisgarh also where conditions are very similar to that of Madhya Pradesh. The party high command has told all the three claimants of CM post– Bhupesh Baghel (Pradesh Congress Committee chief), T.S. Singh Deo (Leader of Opposition) and Charan Das Mahant (former Union Minister and MP from Korba)- that CM would be decided on basis of the wishes of victorious MLAs in case the Congress comes to power. Apart from these three, according to Congress party leaders, a fourth person- Tamradhwaj Sahu, MP from Durg and president of All India Congress Committee’s OBC wing- is likely to emerge as the strongest candidate for the post of CM.

If not pacified then all these infightings are bound to hurt the party in the upcoming elections, state as well as Lok Sabha elections as defection of disgruntled leaders might occur. A rift in the state level could also portray Rahul Gandhi as a failed leader and his candidature for the prime ministerial post might come under serious questioning.

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Shubham Singh

21, (BA) Political Science Hons, PG Diploma in RTV, Learner.

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