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As Rajya Sabha Nominations from MP Inch Closer, Will Congress' Internal Fight Between Factions Grow?

File photo of Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia. (PTI photo)

File photo of Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia. (PTI photo)

The appointment of the Pradesh Congress Committee chief and upcoming nominations for the Rajya Sabha seats which will fall vacant in April are expected to fuel the fire.

Madhya Pradesh: A faction-ridden Congress party had just crossed the mark during the 2018 assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh. However, since then, internal discord has been a regular feature in the party's state unit.

Of late, the discord has only grown. The contentious issues being -- appointment of the Pradesh Congress Committee chief and upcoming nominations for the Rajya Sabha seats which will fall vacant in April.

The disharmony founds its source when in December 2018, former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was initially snubbed for the post of Chief Minister. What followed was his shocking defeat in Lok Sabha polls at his own turf in Guna.

Last year, Scindia's camp -- WCD minister Imarti Devi, Food minister Pradyumn Singh Tomar, Health Minister Tulsi Silawat, among others -- had lobbied hard for him to become the PCC chief. But in the absence of wider consensus, party high command put the decision on the back burner.

For the last few months, Scindia's camp has set its eyes on the Rajya Sabha nominations as three seats from the MP quota are going vacant in April 2020. Given the numbers of Congress in the MP assembly, it could pocket one seat easily and bag another with some efforts.

Scindia also seems to be strategically channelising his anguish against the state government in last few months on issues connected to Vachan Patra, the party poll manifesto. The Gwalior family scion who had been critical of his own government on several issues since long, recently sparked off a raging debate in his own party as he threatened to take to the streets if Vachan Patra wasn’t implemented in letter and spirit.

His remarks came hours after Co-operative Affairs Minister Dr Govind Singh openly admitted that his government could not fulfill the farm loan waiver promised, due to financial constraints in the said time limit.

Scindia’s threat hadn’t gone down well with Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who said Vachan Patra was for five years and not a few months. Tension escalated between the two senior leaders even as Scindia said -- "Toh Utar Jaye Na (let him protest)".

However, some days later Nath laughed off reports of a rift between him and Scindia; saying since he was never upset with Shivraj (Singh Chouhan) so how could he be angry with Scindia.

But the damage was already done; BJP leaders mocked at the ongoing war between the two senior Congressmen. Several leaders belonging to these rival camps also exchanged barbs over the issue.

Witnessing this unending discord, AICC recently formed a co-ordination committee for the unit's smooth functioning. The inaugural meet of the committee happened at Kamal Nath's residence in New Delhi.

Sources said Scindia left the venue in the middle of the event in anger.

Later, party leaders rubbished such claims, calling the meeting cordial. But Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi, loyal to Scindia, had announced that the entire party would follow Scindia, if he decided to protested.

Another supporter of Scindia, the Gwalior-based Mahila Congress State General Secretary Ruchi Rai Thakur demanded that he revive the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress which was founded by his father Late Madhav Rao Scindia in late 1990s.

Bal Khande, ex-District head of Congress in Gwalior posted in favour of Scindia on social media. He posted against his own government and called for Scindia loyalists to hit the streets for 'Maharaj' (supreme king). On the other hand, Minister Dr Govind Singh urged Scindia, whom he called a senior leader, to refrain from making such public comments.

Amid all this, PWD Minister and a close aid of Nath, Sajjan Singh Verma sparked off a fresh debate demanding that AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi be nominated for Rajya Sabha from the MP quota.

Political analysts believe that if at all this happens, either Scindia or Digvijaya Singh, the sitting RS MPs, will have to switch base elsewhere for the nomination. Many wonder whether it is a masterstroke aimed at pushing Scindia out of state affairs completely.

Sources claim that Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Meenakshi Natrajan is also eyeing a Rajya Sabha nomination from MP. Other claimants for the post include former Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh and Home Minister Bala Bachchan.

A few days ago, MLA Sanjay Yadav from Jabalpur, another close aid of Nath, had also staked claim for the top post.

It seems likely that anyone from Nath's pack could pocket the post, as the Chief Minister is not in the mood to let another power centre be created in the state Congress unit.

And on the other hand Scindia is not the only one from the Gwalior-Chambal region who is sulking. Aidal Singh Kansana, sitting MLA from Sumaoli in Morena, who was snubbed off ministership, threatened by saying -- "Party overlooking leaders like me won’t do any good in the Joura assembly by-poll.”

A Digvijaya loyalist, Kansana had openly protested with supporters after he was denied cabinet birth in December 2018. Joura in Morena and Agar in Agar District are due to assembly by-poll shortly after the demise of Congress’ Banwarilal Sharma and Manohar Untwal of BJP, respectively.

Congress with 114 MLAs is desperate to win the upcoming by-polls which could help the ruling party gain the magic majority figure of 116. The party is presently clinging on to power with the support of BSP, SP and four independent MLAs.

Digvijaya Singh, whose clout has been quite evident in the Kamal Nath government, is also being pestered by his own brother Laxman Singh, who hardly misses an opportunity to irk the party over being denied the ministerial berth.

Laxman Singh, had even asked Rahul Gandhi to apologise to farmers for not fulfilling his farm loan waiver promise. He has also been asking the Congress unit to entrust seniors like him with key responsibilities; utlising their experience.

The upcoming Rajya Sabha nominations are only expected to fuel the raging tussle within Congress, said a Bhopal-based political journalist.