Jyotiraditya Scindia unlikely to quit Congress for BJP, verbal volleys against Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh aimed at regaining lost ground

Debobrat Ghose

Of late, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Congress general secretary and former Union minister, has been relentless in his criticism of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. The latest salvo relates to transfer-posting of government officers in the state.

In an interaction with party workers and supporters in Morena recently, Scindia said, "Transfer posting ka kya haal hai woh to sab jaante hi hain. Main aapse yeh kahunga ki aap kaam pe dhyan dein (Everyone knows the state of transfers and postings (in Madhya Pradesh). I would request you to stay focused on your work."

The opposition BJP has also raised the issue of transfer-posting in the state and alleged that the government machinery has focused only on transferring officials and making money out of it ever since it came to power in the state last December, after a 15-year hiatus.

It is not for the first time that the Scindia family scion €" a seasoned politician and a loyal Congressman €" has spoken against his own party line or against his colleagues. This is in a series of allegations he has been making frequently of late against Nath government.

Prior to this, he had raised finger at Madhya Pradesh government's poll promise of farm loan waiver €" which has not yet been completely fulfilled €" and against the distribution of flood relief package to farmers.

However his reaction or comments with a rebellious streak are not out of the blue or aimless; rather it's a well-thought-out strategy to stay relevant in the state politics, where he's neither the chief minister nor the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief. Both the posts are being held by Nath, under whose leadership, the Congress party formed government in Madhya Pradesh.

In contrast, Scindia is in a no-win situation, made worse by his loss in the 2019 Lok Sabha election from his pocket borough Guna. He lost at a time when beleaguered Congress party had just made a stellar comeback in Madhya Pradesh politics, after staying out of power for 15 years.

It defanged Scindia from getting an important position and role within the party and in state politics.

"It's an attempt by Jyotiraditya Scindia to draw attention, without crossing his party's Laxman Rekha (limitation) and engage with his voters," political commentator Rashid Kidwai told Firstpost.

What led to the situation?

According to insiders, before 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, both Nath and Scindia came together under an informal understanding that if Congress came to power, one of them would become the chief minister, and the other would support him at the Delhi Durbar. It essentially meant one would become the chief minister and take control of the state, while the other would dabble in national-level politics to provide support to the chief minister.

It was meant to keep other contending groups within the Congress away from the post of the chief minister, especially because symbolism is a big thing within the Congress. Often, it had been seen that demands were raised to make a tribal face or a Dalit or a woman as the chief minister.

Prior to 2018 election, both Nath and Scindia had strongly jockeyed for PCC presidentship, as traditionally in Congress, the person holding this post becomes the first and foremost claimant to the post of the chief minister.

But, with the defeat of Scindia in the Lok Sabha polls, his grandeur as the uncrowned king of Gwalior-Chambal region evaporated. It's visible on the ground as Scindia, who was made the head of the screening committee for Maharashtra election €" a coveted post €" has not been visiting the poll-bound state for campaigning. His demand in Maharashtra somehow seems subsided.

His defeat has also changed the equation that was informally forged ahead of Madhya Pradesh election. Scindia now needs to keep himself relevant in state politics.

There's another aspect that has led Scindia to question Nath government, which can also be seen as a 'pressure tactics'.

Even after 10 months of the formation of the Congress government in the state, the political appointments of chairmen and members in different boards and corporations in Madhya Pradesh like tourism board, Waqf board, civil supplies corporation, etc are yet to be done.

The top leaders in the ruling party would like to have their representatives in these state-run bodies.

Scindia has not only targetted the chief minister, but also the former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, who enjoys enormous clout in the state and within the administration. Often referred to as 'de-facto CM', Digvijaya is said to have interferences in administration as well. This accusation has been raised not only by the opposition BJP but also by a section within the state Congress, including a minister.

"Scindia has been facing a lot of pressure from MLAs and party workers from his own turf. Now he is using pressure tactics to accommodate adequate representatives from his region," a Congress leader remarked.

How BJP reacts to Scindia?

Reacting to Scindia's comments, the state BJP has recently suggested that he should quit Congress. Even to the extent that some over-enthusiastic BJP workers hailed Scindia on their posters.

On Scindia's remark on the unfulfilled poll promise of farm loan waiver, the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Gopal Bhargava said if Scindia was tired of Congress' unfulfilled promises, he should quit his party.

During Scindia's recent visit to Bhind district, some local BJP workers displayed posters and banners of Scindia with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, to hail Scindia for his support on Article 370.

After the abrogation of Article 370, Scindia voiced his support towards Narendra Modi government by tweeting, "I support the move on #Jammu and Kashmir & #Ladakh and its full integration into union of India€¦Nevertheless, this is in our country's interest and I support this."

At one point of time, there were rumours that Scindia might join the BJP after he gave an ultimatum to Congress high command that if he was not made PCC chief, he would have to 'look for other options'.

At that point of time, speculation was rife in political circles that Scindia was in touch with BJP leaders and that he might quit Congress, which didn't happen.

Unlike Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, Scindia wasn't made deputy chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Besides being deputy chief minister, Pilot is also Rajasthan Congress president.

Given the circumstances, Scindia's sulking is logical. But that doesn't mean that he would quit Congress.

"He's not trying to dislodge Kamal Nath or go against the Congress party. Defection takes place on a convenient ground or premise. Given the stature that Scindia has enjoyed in the party, what is he going to get by switching over to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh? There are already big leaders in the BJP like Narendra Singh Tomar from Morena in Chambal division. After all, Scindia is still the uncrowned king," said Kidwai, the author of Sonia, a biography and 24 Akbar Road.

Also See: Posters in MP's Bhind feature Jyotiraditya Scindia, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah together, thank Cong leader for support on Article 370

Maharashtra Assembly elections: BJP banks on Modi's appeal, but faces challenge of farm distress, quota demands

Jhabua bye-election emerges as make-or-break situation for Congress, Kantilal Bhuria; win could reverse tribal leader's fortunes

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