NEW DELHI: Driven by the ruling faction in Bhopal, led by CM Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, Congress utterly failed to gauge the support commanded by Jyotiraditya Scindia and the resentment among its MLAs, a miss that is set to bring down the 15-month-old Congress-led government in MP.
Though Scindia had adopted a rebellious tone over the last couple of months, the state Congress was convinced that he would not be able to garner support of more than five MLAs, that too from his turf of Gwalior-Guna. That prompted Nath and Singh to push Scindia to go for the broke, an extreme step that he may not have taken in normal circumstances.
The calculation was that even if he left the party, he would not be able to bring down the government and the loss of a few MLAs would be compensated by the turncoats from BJP who were in contact with the chief minister. What actually transpired – with over 20 MLAs set to quit Congress now along with Scindia and join BJP – has shocked the state unit.
There was also complete confidence in the Congress brass, starting from the AICC, that Scindia could grumble and create problems but would not jump the ship for arch rival BJP.
That Scindia could muster support beyond his recognised clout – and also decide to join BJP – left Congress red-faced with embarrassment on Holi.
The problems started right after the Congress victory in the December 2018 elections. Scindia was overlooked as choice of party mascot for the state polls, as Digvijaya Singh threw his lot behind Nath in the deeply factionalised state unit.
While Scindia was smarting all along, his defeat in 2019 Lok Sabha elections made him desperate. He staked claim to a Rajya Sabha berth and state leadership.
But the Nath-Singh combine shut him out completely and the disappearance of some party MLAs last week was seen as a bid to thwart his claim for the RS berth. The proposal that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra become an RS candidate from the state was also seen as the ruling group’s bid to cut out Scindia.
The absentee leadership at the top, following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress chief, only helped the state satraps get a free run without having to worry about the diktats or concerns of the AICC.
For the young leader, this was a recap, and extension, of the rivalry that these senior leaders had with his late father Madhavrao Scindia, which thwarted the latter from becoming the CM. His complete shutting out drove him to the extreme step of quitting Congress and joining the BJP.
The episode has an echo of what Jyotiraditya’s late father did in 1996. After his name figured in the infamous Jain Hawala diaries during the Narasimha Rao government, in which he was a minister, he was denied a ticket for Lok Sabha elections.
Miffed, Scindia senior left Congress and contested under his newly floated party and defeated the official Congress candidate. He went on to support the Deve Gowda government but returned to Congress in 1998 when Sonia Gandhi assumed leadership. He remained in Congress till his death in an air crash in 2001.
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