With Madhya Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel inviting the Congress to elect the leader of the legislative party, it has become a challenging task for the top leadership to select the perfect chief minister for the state.
The Congress returns to power in Madhya Pradesh after 15 long years having won 114 seats and enjoying the support of seven MLAs which include four Independents, two from the BSP and one Samajwadi Party candidate.
In the legislative party meeting at 4 pm today, the elected candidates in discussion with All India Congress Committee (AICC) leaders will finalise the chief ministerial candidate.
While the decks have been cleared for the Congress to form the next government in the state, the race for the chief ministerial berth has become interesting. Especially, after Jyotiraditya Scindia in response to a question posed by CNN-News18 on whether he would accept the chief minister's post, replied, "Yes, it'll be my privilege."
Kamal Nath's candidature is the strongest for the top spot even though Scindia's name has also been in circulation. Outside the Raj Bhawan, when the Congress leaders went to meet the governor, the supporters of Nath and Scindia were raising slogans for chief ministership in favour of their respective leaders.
So, who will become chief minister?
A lot of permutations and combinations will go into the selection of the right candidate for the post of chief minister. While making the selection, the top Congress leadership also has to keep in mind that the BJP will form a strong Opposition with 109 MLAs. The outgoing chief minister of 15 years, Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be a major voice in the Opposition bloc, keeping the new government on its toes. Disruptions in the 230-member Assembly can't be ruled out either.
There's also the task of getting best returns for the party from the state for the parliamentary polls, which will not be possible without a competent chief minister at the helm.
Given the situation, Congress will look for a chief minister with a lot of experience, who can manage the strong Opposition in the Assembly and simultaneously play a pivotal role in maximising the party's tally in Madhya Pradesh in the 2019 General Election. Besides, the party also has to fulfil the promises it has made to the voters in the state.
Although the Congress, in Madhya Pradesh, put up a united fight by keeping differences aside, the supporters of Nath and Scindia have now come out aggressively in public by openly demanding their respective leaders become chief minister — as if differences exist between the two leaders.
Nath, 72, one of the longest serving and senior most members of Lok Sabha, is a nine-time elected MP from Chhindwara constituency. He served as Cabinet minister at the Centre in successive Congress governments. Close to the Nehru-Gandhi family, Nath has a strong national recall and is a strong voice at the World Economic Forum. He's considered more accommodative and enjoys the support of former chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
Nath is also efficient at floor management in the Parliament, as he has built a strong rapport through efficient networking over the years across political parties including the BJP. His seniority backed by experience will be favourable for him.
Scindia, 47, who represents the princely state of Gwalior and is the son of former Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia, is a Lok Sabha member from Guna. Scindia, who is professionally qualified and represents the young brigade of promising Congress leaders, had been a Central minister during the UPA government. As head of the campaign committee in Madhya Pradesh Congress, he campaigned in 115 constituencies, while connecting with the workers and voters at the grass roots. Scindia is also close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, as he is seen with him on important occasions.
Although top Congress leaders including Digvijaya had been saying that the elected party members would finalise the chief ministerial candidate, it's a well-known fact that Rahul will take the final call.
While the choice will primarily revolve around old war horse Nath, the decision will depend a lot on the calculations of Rahul keeping the 2019 General Election in mind. He will want to flaunt a dynamic young team with leaders like Scindia to the nation, besides looking for experience to navigate complicated coalition politics.
It is going to be a tightrope walk for the Congress leadership when it comes to selecting a Madhya Pradesh chief minister — whose identity will be known in a few hours.
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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2018 15:33:24 IST