Congress reshuffles leaders in Madhya Pradesh ahead of elections

The party appointed Arun Yadav as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president on the eve of his 40th birthday.

Chandrakant Naidu January 15, 2014 21:28:58 IST
Congress reshuffles leaders in Madhya Pradesh ahead of elections

Bhopal: In its latest makeover the Congress has given expression to its disillusionment with the “Singhdom” in Madhya Pradesh.

The party appointed Arun Yadav as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president on the eve of his 40th birthday. He is the youngest ever to hold the post. The post-election overhaul after the party’s third successive debacle had already seen Satyadev Katare, 59, replacing Ajay Singh as leader of the legislature party.

Yadav takes the place of the tribal leader Kantilal Bhuria who had a forgettable tenure. The new appointments show a paradigm shift with the party veering away from the Singhs –Digvijaya and Ajay who called the shots during Bhuria’s tenure.

Congress reshuffles leaders in Madhya Pradesh ahead of elections

AFP

Ajay Singh apparently paid for his proximity to Digvijaya Singh despite faring well in the assembly elections winning Churhat and ensuring a relatively better show for the party in the Vindhya region. Despite their own failures in the recent elections the other faction leaders, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath have managed to get control over the legislative and organisational wings of the party. They now face the challenge of proving their mettle in the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress has 11 out 29 seats from the state in the present Lok Sabha.

Incidentally Yadav takes over a post assigned to his father Subhash Yadav a decade ago (in 2003) when the Congress lost after a decade-long term under Digvijaya Singh as chief minister. Subhash Yadav, a party heavyweight, was an ally of Arjun Singh, Digvijaya’s mentor.

However, Digvijaya kept Yadav out of his ministry and opposed his appointment as PCC chief.

That drove young Yadav away from the Singhs. He assumes the charge with the party in similar turmoil and amid similar resistance from Digvijaya camp. Yadav, a commerce graduate, has shouldered his father’s legacy efficiently, getting elected to the Lok Sabha from Khargone and Khandwa with large margins. He acquitted himself well as union minister of state for heavy industries and public enterprises and later for agriculture and food processing industry.

After Katare’s appointment as CLP leader, the Singh camp believed Ajay would be made PCC chief to maintain a balance between the two factions. The Scindia-Singh battle had turned bitter with the former’s staunch supporters, Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Mahendra Singh Kalukheda, launching a sharp attack against the rival camp. In the previous House, Ajay Singh was handed the CLP leadership long after his predecessor Yamuna Devi’s death.

This time around Ajay Singh and Kalukhera were the original claimants for CLP leadership in a bitter battle for factional supremacy. Short on numbers, Kalukheda vitiated the atmosphere saying Ajay Singh’s earlier appointment was on “compassionate grounds” as he had lost his father Arjun Singh. The resultant war of words forced the party to drop both the candidates and choose a moderate Katare from the Scindia camp.

Another Digvijaya man, Dr Rajendra Singh, MLA from Amarpatan, was nominated as deputy speaker.

Bala Bachchan, a senior tribal MLA and Kamal Nath's protégé who was earlier considered for the Deputy Speaker’s post was subsequently offered deputy leader’s post in the CLP. He declined, leaving the party to rejig its plans for tribal support during the Lok Sabha elections.

Earlier indications about Scindia himself leaving the ministry to head the party were put to rest with Yadav’s appointment. Among the other names considered were Bala Bachchan and Dr Govind Singh. Yadav’s nomination meets the party’s need to project an OBC face. The three BJP chief ministers in state over the past ten years have all belonged to other backward classes.

Almost half the state voters fall in the OBC bracket, and the Congress could have gone to the assembly polls under an OBC leader. But it never gave the idea a serious thought because Subhash Yadav, a prominent OBC leader, could not increase support from the community during his tenure as PCC chief. Like chief minister Shivraj Chouhan, Arun Yadav is an OBC leader and a farmer. But, while Chouhan cashed in on these attributes with intense public relation exercises the new MPCC chief has yet to make his mark.

His biggest challenge is to rejuvenate a party that hasn't tasted big ticket success over the past ten years. Being a lesser known figure in the party he can work without the fear of failure and take all factions along. Even Scindia who led the party’s campaign in the assembly election could not present a neutral image within the party.

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