Amid rumours of a rift in Madhya Pradesh Congress, Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Friday met interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi and discussed names of possible successors as state party chief. Jyotiraditya Scindia is touted to be among the front-runners, but his supporters fear a repeat of the Assembly election scenario, where Scindia was first considered the party's face in the run-up to elections but was eventually trumped by Nath.
Later, Scindia was reportedly set to be given the deputy chief minister's post along with some plush portfolios, but that too turned out to be a damp squib.
Now media reports suggest that Scindia has been angling for top job in the Madhya Pradesh Congress and has threatened to look for "other options" if he is sidelined once again. However, on the record, he has said there is "no question" of leaving the party.
Scindia earlier raised eyebrows within the party by holding a closed-door meeting with Leader of Opposition Shivraj Singh Chouhan. However, the duo called it a saujanya bhent (courtesy meeting).
Meanwhile, Nath dismissed rumours of Scindia's discontent, which were further fuelled by recent comments supporting the Centre's decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
Speaking to NDTV, Nath said names were discussed for a new chief, but claimed that a decision will be made only after wider consultation. "I am ready to work with anyone appointed," he said.
But a group of Scindia's supporters have threatened to quit the party if he is not made state chief. "If Jyotiraditya Scindia is kept away from state politics, then I, along with 500 people, will resign from the party," said Congress leader Ashok Dangi in a press statement. Notably, an important post in state, befitting Scindia's stature has been a long-standing demand of his supporters.
Earlier too, when his name was brought up for the post of MPCC chief after Nath was handed chief minister's post, Scindia was sent off to Uttar Pradesh to lead the campaign for the national election, which was not only unchartered territory, but was also a region that has of late emerged as BJP's playground.
Nath, however, dismissed rumours of Scindia's displeasure with him or the party. He said, "I don’t agree with this because I don’t think he is unhappy." Nath was appointed MPCC president in April 2018, while he took over as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in December.
When he beat Scindia in the race to become chief minister, many were reminded of the situation 29 years ago, when his father too missed out on the top job due to internal factionalism. In 1989, Madhavrao was all set to be the chief minister but strident opposition from senior leader Arjun Singh — who was asked to step down as chief minister after the Churhat lottery scam — ensured that then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi could not give the former Gwalior royal the coveted post.
Singh, in a bid to get his way, even kept his MLAs ensconced in the Char Imli residence of loyalist Harivansh Singh. Madhavrao was so confident of being given the post that he flew down from Delhi and camped in the state for two days. Instead, Motilal Vora was made chief minister.
The next generation has kept the rivalry alive. NDTV reported that apart from Scindia, another name doing the rounds for the post is Singh's son Ajay Singh, who is backed by veteran party leader Digvijaya Singh.
For now, the Congress has deputed Scindia with screening candidates for elections in Maharashtra, another BJP-RSS bastion where the Congress has failed to make a mark in the past few elections.
Updated Date: Aug 30, 2019 16:22:23 IST