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A Year of Infighting, Resentments and Challenging Oppn: What Transpired Ahead of the Massive Political Controversy in MP

File photo of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath. (PTI)

File photo of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath. (PTI)

As the Congress managed to ‘rescue’ six MLAs and ‘contacted’ the remaining four, internal upheaval of the party also came to fore which perhaps led to the problem in the first place.

Bhopal: When the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan vacated his official residence in December 2018 despite polling more votes than Congress, it was anticipated that the close contest would lead to a stormy tenure for the Kamal Nath government.

The BJP won on 109 seats as against 114 won by the Congress, two less than the majority of 116.

However, barring a bitter war of words, the first serious challenge for the Kamal Nath-led government came late on Tuesday evening after over a year in office when the ruling party reported 10 of its MLAs were missing, including some allies.

The instance dramatically came couple of days after party veteran Digvijaya Singh accused the BJP of trying to buy MLAs for up to Rs 35 crore.

As the Congress managed to ‘rescue’ six MLAs and ‘contacted’ the remaining four, it also revealed the internal upheaval in the party.

Even before Kamal Nath took over as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief in May 2018, outgoing president Arun Yadav was sulking over his unceremonious removal.

As the Congress chose Nath as the CM candidate post the assembly polls win, the senior leader found a new adversary in Jyotiraditya Scindia who was the front-runner for the post.

Even ministers from the Scindia camp formed a sub-group within the cabinet and this led to frequent internal feuds. These ministers were kept away from the meeting held at the CM House on Wednesday for efforts to contain damage.

Besides, the snub to seniors — including Laxman Singh, brother of Digvijaya Singh, and Surendra Singh Shera, Aidal Singh Kansana and others — at the time of cabinet formation also left them fuming.

These leaders spoke their mind regularly, putting the state Congress in a spot of bother. Laxman Singh was the most vocal, questioning every move of the party and once even asked Rahul Gandhi to apologise to farmers for unfulfilled claims of farm loan waiver.

Another bone of contention was the clout party veteran Digvijaya Singh enjoys in the functioning of the government that led to discontent in several younger ministers and MLAs.

Senior ministers like state home minister Bala Bachchan and forest minister Umang Singhar had gone public with their displeasure against Singh over his interference in the state government.

Singhar, after a whip from the high command, had toned down in the past but after the recent episode with the BJP, expressed his displeasure once again.

“The Kamal Nath government is safe. This is a fight to enter Rajya Sabha, rest you all are intelligent,” tweeted Singhar, alluding to BJP's allegations that the political drama was all scripted by Digvijaya Singh as part of his efforts to enter Rajya Sabha again.

However, Singhar later skipped queries on his tweet.

Besides, Nath giving a free hand to bureaucracy has continually irked the ministers and MLAs alike.

Talks of appointment of a new PCC chief to replace Nath also had factions drawing swords at each other every time the matter was raised, prompting the party to shelve the issue repeatedly.

The delaying tactics only fuelled the discontent and threw organisation and government relations out of gear slowly.

Occupied by his responsibilities in running the state and facing challenges thrown by the BJP, Nath had little time for internal party issues.

The recently formed co-ordination committee to smoothen organisation-government relations also met just once.

If internal discord was a concern, allies also remained an issue as BSP MLA Rambai Singh kept posing problems for the government with her actions and statements, while SP MLA Rajesh Shukla expressed resentment alleging ill-treatment by ministers. Independents also kept pushing for ministerial berths.

Among other things, expansion of cabinet was also delayed persistently even as several senior MLAs kept presenting their stakes for ministerial berths.

The underlying discontent on the PCC chief’s appointment was voiced by none other than Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha on Wednesday as Tankha claimed that it was high time the party came together to discuss their concerns.

“A full-time state head could have made a lot of difference,” claimed Tankha.

The Rajya Sabha nominations had only sharpened the fight in Congress as sitting MP Digvijaya Singh wanted a re-nomination and Scindia too wanted the same but the party was certain of only one seat.

In between, PWD minister Sajjan Singh Verma had floated the name of AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi for an RS nomination from MP which made heads turn.

Party seniors like Bachchan and MLA Kantilal Bhuria kept themselves busy in Bhagoria festivities even as their fellow leaders fought a spirited tussle to save the government. Scindia also feigned ignorance about horse trading charges on Wednesday.

Senior BJP leaders, including Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Gopal Bhargav and Narottam Mishra, who were auguring an uncertain fate for Kamal Nath government since the party came to power in 2018, suddenly switched to denial mode on Wednesday.

Chouhan persisted with his old stance, saying they have no interest in bringing down the Congress government but they can’t help if the government crashes under its own weight.

The BJP leaders unanimously claimed that it was all a drama scripted by Digvijaya Singh and the BJP had no role to play in the horse trading attempts as alleged by Congress.

This was, however, contrary to their earlier stand where leaders like Bhargav and Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed that they could bring down the Kamal Nath government in the blink of an eye.

Political analysts, meanwhile, are also questioning the rationale behind the allegations by the Congress that BJP abducted MLAs to win Rajya Sabha MLAs on March 3-4 when the actual voting takes place on March 26, more than 20 days later.

Some of them posed a query whether it was a mock drill by the BJP ahead of the actual game the party plans to execute at an opportune moment.