By sending Jyotiraditya Scindia to Uttar Pradesh, has Congress tried to smooth things out for Kamal Nath in MP?

In the days that led to 28 November, when the 230 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh went to the polls, Jyotiraditya Scindia toured nearly 100 of them. His role in the Congress' campaign had acquired such a strong, unrelenting, personal note that the message was loud and clear that he would like nothing more than to become chief minister. He did not, however, become chief minister. And now that Jyotiraditya has been moved to Uttar Pradesh on Lok Sabha poll duty, the question begs to be asked if it was to make life easier for the man who did become chief minister, Kamal Nath.

A file photo of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Rahul Gandhi and Kamal Nath. PTI

A file photo of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Rahul Gandhi and Kamal Nath. PTI

On Wednesday, in one of the most publicised developments in the run up to the 2019 General Election, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi announced that his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was to formally enter politics as party general secretary in charge of polling activities in Uttar Pradesh East. For the West, he named Scindia.

"Priyanka and Jyotiraditya in Uttar Pradesh will spread the real Congress ideology and change the politics of Uttar Pradesh," Rahul said.

What is overtly an effort to harness the possibilities offered by two charming, younger politicians in a state important for the Congress, could well be a deployment for Jyotiraditya that will shift his focus from a state where he has significant clout. Jyotiraditya is popular enough in Madhya Pradesh to have won four successive times from his constituency in Guna.

He is popular enough to have been one of the only two Congress leaders who won in Madhya Pradesh in 2014, when the BJP swept 27 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats. The other Congress leader who won was Kamal Nath.

A nine-time former MP, Kamal Nath has long enjoyed closeness with the Gandhi family. He has been one of Sanjay Gandhi's closest friends, Indira Gandhi's closest aides after her 1977 electoral defeat and one of Rajiv Gandhi's few trusted lieutenants in the 80s.

When he was announced as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots notwithstanding, comparisons were drawn to how Jyotiraditya had missed out on the chair just as his father Madhavrao Scindia had, in 1989, to Motilal Vora.

Jyotiraditya had been open about his chief ministerial ambitions. "It would be an honour to serve as chief minister," he had told NDTV. He has served as minister of state for telecom and information technology and commerce and also as minister of state (independent charge) of power in two UPA governments.

File photo of Jyotiraditya Scindia on the campaign trail. Twitter @JM_Scindia

File photo of Jyotiraditya Scindia on the campaign trail. Twitter @JM_Scindia

Amidst rumours of mounting tension between him and Kamal Nath, who enjoys his own degree of wild popularity in the state, Jyotiraditya made little effort to hide his disappointment.

"Many of the party's decisions go against what you wish, but such is life... Don't think Kamal Nath or Ashok Gehlot spent more time in the respective states than me or Sachin Pilot," he told India Today. Pilot was made deputy to Ashok Gehlot when it came to choosing a chief minister of Rajasthan, in circumstances similar to Madhya Pradesh's.

In the one-and-half months for which he has been chief minister, Nath has waived farmer loans in keeping with the Congress's pre-election promise and the time is ripe for him to settle into his two very important roles as chief minister and Madhya Pradesh Congress chief. Reports have pointed out that Jyotiraditya's journey to Uttar Pradesh could well mean that the Congress has effectively handed over responsibility of leading the party into the Lok Sabha polls in Madhya Pradesh to Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.

On Monday, Jyotiraditya paid a late night call to recently defeated former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The visit had set off a buzz among circles, mostly because the Scindia scion usually prefers to stay away from Bhopal, reported News18. Both leaders maintained the visit was a courtesy call, but the report noted that Chouhan, too, had been snubbed by his own party for the Leader of Opposition’s post.

In another stroke of similarity with Jyotiraditya, Chouhan too was kept away from Madhya Pradesh by BJP leadership which has named him national vice-president, the report pointed out. Another News18 report says this was despite Chouhan's open declaration that he wishes to remain in Madhya Pradesh.

Jyotiraditya's task in Uttar Pradesh is a tall one, points out India Today. The Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav alliance, with a possibility of Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal joining, and the BJP government of Yogi Adityanath already in power, offers manifold challenges to the Congress leader in a state where he does not have a constituency that supports not just him but his lineage.

Kamal Nath, meanwhile, tweeted congratulations to Jyotiraditya, Priyanka and new Congress general secretary KC Venugopal, from Davos where he is attending the World Economic Forum, on Wednesday.

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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 15:45:59 IST

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