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Factionalism Comes to Fore Among MP Congress Leaders as Race for State Chief’s Post Intensifies

File photo of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

File photo of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

One of the most stinging assaults has come from Forest Minister Umang Singhar who called senior party leader Digvijaya Singh a ‘blackmailer’ and accused him of being involved in liquor trade and illegal sand mining.


Vivek Trivedi

Bhopal: The simmering discontent within the Madhya Pradesh Congress over the appointment of the state unit chief over the last few days appears to be exploding as various factions have started to openly attack each other. One of the most stinging assaults has come from State Forest Minister Umang Singhar, who called senior party leader Digvijaya Singh a "blackmailer" and accused him of being involved in liquor trade and illegal sand mining.

As indecision prevailed over the appointment of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, unity was nowhere to be seen. Singhar has been particularly angry with Singh and has accused the latter of running the government from behind the scenes after Singh’s letters written to ministers were leaked to the media.

Minister PC Sharma, considered to be a loyalist of the former chief minister and parliamentarian, on Tuesday said Singhar was vying for the post of MPCC chief and when that didn’t happen, he started targeting the senior leader.

Soon after, Singhar said, “Digvijaya Singh blackmails the state government for getting his things done.”

Singhar further alleged that Singh wrote to ministers inquiring about the progress of various projects and had later leaked those missives to the media himself.

“I am not in the race for the PCC chief’s post, but Digvijaya Singh is, even at the age of 72. He has expressed his desire to the party high command,” Singhar said, accusing the Rajya Sabha MP of extorting money from the transport and excise departments. “At this age, he should be singing bhajans, but that’s not the case with Singh.”

In a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday, Singhar claimed that Singh was trying to "destabilise" the Kamal Nath government.

"I am writing to you with a lot of pain to inform you that senior party leader and MP (Singh) is trying to destabilise the Kamal Nath government and trying to establish himself as a power centre," Singhar wrote, claiming that Singh has been continuously writing letters to the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues and also circulating them on social media.

"He (Digvijaya) has been openly blackmailing the government through select MLAs and ministers. He wants everything. He kept himself away from state politics for 10 years and came back to reap benefits when the party formed the government here," Singhar had said.

He also blamed Singh for the Congress party's failure to form a government in Goa after the 2017 Assembly polls, despite it having emerged as the single-largest party.

"(YSR Congress leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister) Jagan Mohan Reddy also parted ways with the Congress because of him (Singh)," alleged Singhar, the MLA from Gandhwani seat.

To another question, Singhar said, "He (Singh) resorted to rhetoric like terming Hindus as terrorists and spies of Pakistan. He has made fun of everything and hurt the party’s interests."

Singhar also accused the veteran Congress leader of pressurising ministers and other officers in the state.

Singh recently wrote to state ministers and had urged them to give him updates on action taken on his recommendations for transfers and other work.

Taking strong exception to Singh's letter, Singhar claimed that the former chief minister was running the Kamal Nath-led state government from "behind the curtain".

While Singh could not be contacted, but his son Jaivardhan, who is also a minister in the state Cabinet, said there is nothing wrong in writing letters, terming it a "democratic system".

"The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh is formed due to the hard work of our workers and people's blessings. The challenge before us today is to uphold the Constitution of the country. Farmers, labourers and youths, who were exploited by the BJP, are looking at us with hopes," he said in a tweet in Hindi. "Writing letters is a democratic system. There is nothing wrong in it."

Singhar’s aunt, Jamuna Devi, was a Congress veteran and an adversary of Digvijaya Singh. Besides, Singhar is also said to be concerned about the rise of Hiralal Alawa, who too is considered close to Singh. Both Singhar and Alawa are MLAs form Dhar. Digvijaya loyalist and former minister Raja Pateriya said Singhar was losing his mental composure.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Manak Agrawal, considered a close confidante of Digvijaya Singh, said Chief Minister Kamal Nath has taken note of the issue. "He has taken cognisance of the matter and he will sort out the issue today itself," Agrawal said, when asked about Singhar's allegations against Digvijaya Singh.

Earlier in the day, former Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who too is said to be in the race for the MPCC chief’s post, was accorded a grand welcome at the Gwalior station. While stating that he would take up any role handed over to him by the party high command, Scindia said party chief Sonia Gandhi would decide on the next state unit president and it would be acceptable to all.

The former Union minister, however, spoke about the prevalent illegal mining in the state that the government had failed to check. His statement came close on the heels of his loyalist MLAs accusing minister Govind Singh of being involved in illegal mining in Bhind. A close aide of Digvijaya, Govind himself has been bringing up the illegal mining issue for some time.

Scindia loyalist and Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi, also present on the occasion candidly, said people like her wanted to see ‘Maharaj’ (Scindia belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior) as PCC president.

Meanwhile former PCC chief Arun Yadav, who was ousted from the post unceremoniously last year ahead of assembly polls and was seen as a contender for the post, expressed his anguish over the ongoing situation.

"I am pained to see the scenario emerging in the last 8 months after party regained power following 15-year long struggle of honest partymen in MP. If I had a hint that this situation will emerge, I would not have fought against the poisonous and corrupt ideology by putting my own life at risk. I am deeply hurt," he wrote on Twitter in Hindi.

Senior BJP leader and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took a dig at the tensions within the Congress. “First, they formed the government and since then, a monkey fight is underway to get shares,” said Chouhan, adding that he was concerned about the rumblings affecting the state’s development.

BJP vice-president Prabhat Jha such a situation arose when a minority government came to power and people developed a tendency to exert pressure that further led to corruption. “The Congress government is immersed neck-deep in corruption,” Jha said. He further claimed that Scinda was running a separate campaign against the government.

(With inputs from PTI)

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