Just how deep is the real divide?
Factional infighting and lack of coordination may adversely impact the Congress’ preparations for the Lok Sabha polls in Madhya Pradesh. The party is divided vertically from the top to the bottom. There are factions even at the grassroots level and lack of coordination among the top leaders of the party is very visible.
Top leaders of the Congress in the State include AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, Union Minister Kamal Nath, Union Minister of State Jyotiraditya Scindia, Former Union minister and former PCC President Kantilal Bhuria, newly-appointed State Congress Chief Arun Yadav, newly-named Opposition leader Satyadev Katare, former leader of opposition Ajay Singh and MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi.
How deep the division among these leaders is was amply demonstrated by the open criticism of Digvijay Singh by Sajjan Verma, a senior Congress Member of Parliament. It is a well known fact that Verma is a trusted member of the faction led by Kamalnath. He questioned the wisdom and logic of sending Digvijay Singh to the Rajya Sabha from the state. Verma said that Digvijay Singh should have shown readiness to contest Lok Sabha polls. Verma claimed that Digvijay Singh had the potential to defeat Sushma Swaraj, who represents one of the Lok Sabha seats (Vidisha) in the state. It may be mentioned here that after the debacle of the Congress in 2003 Assembly polls in the state, Digvijay Singh had announced his decision to keep away from electoral politics for ten years. After the expiry of this self-imposed exile, it was expected that he would contest for Lok Sabha. Instead, he chose to enter Rajya Sabha. His decision has demoralised Congressmen. Why Digvijay chose the House of Elders is a mystery.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections Congress annexed 12 seats out of the 29. But just on the eve of Assembly elections, in December 2013, Rao Uday Pratap Singh, Lok Sabha member from Hoshangabad resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP. Recent opinion polls indicate that the Congress tally in the coming Lok Sabha may not exceed three to four.
Out of the 29 seats, four are reserved for Scheduled castes and seven for Scheduled Tribes. Congress used to capture all the reserved seats till a couple of years back. Now these seats are shared both by the Congress and the BJP. At present the BJP claims that it will win all the reserved seats. Although the Congress is yet to unfold its strategy for the Lok Sabha polls, there are indications that it may seek the opinion of grassroots party workers in selecting the party nominees. It is learnt that Rahul Gandhi has decided to adopt the American system of ‘Primaries’ to identify the probable candidates. It is learnt that Congress vice-president has chosen Indore and Mandsaur for adopting Primaries-like procedure to choose the party nominee.
At present Mandsaur is represented by Meenakshi Natarajan, who happens to be a very close associate of Rahul Gandhi. Mandsaur used to be a stronghold of the Janasangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Laxmi Narain Pandey a veteran BJP leader was returned from Mandsaur as many as nine times. But to the surprise of many and to the shock of the BJP, Natarajan trounced Pande in the 2009 polls. Even now she continues to enjoy popularity and has nursed the constituency well for the last five years. It is hoped that she may emerge as the choice of those who will participate in the primary poll. Indore is also a BJP stronghold of yore.
The last time Congress won from Indore was way back in 1972. The candidate was PC Sethi, who was regarded as a close confidante of Indira Gandhi. Since 1977, Indore is being represented by Sumitra Mahajan. She is regarded as invincible. In the last election his adversary BJP strongman and Cabinet Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya tried his best to get Sumitra Mahajan defeated. But he failed and she again retained Indore. Now the Congress is in the search of a powerful candidate who can defeat Mahajan.
Gwalior region is regarded as a citadel of the Scindia family. The loyalty of the Scindia family is divided. The first member of the family to enter the electoral battle was Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia. She entered the Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket. Later, in 1967, she severed ties with the Congress and joined hands with the Janasangh to overthrow the elected Congress government headed by D P Mishra.
From that time onwards, she continued to be a member of the Lok Sabha till her death. At the same time, her son joined the Congress and entered the Lok Sabha from another constituency in the Gwalior region. After the death of Madhavrao Scindia, the same position continues. While Jyotiraditya, the son of Madhavrao represents Congress in the Lok Sabha, Yashodhararaje, sister of Madhavrao represents the BJP in Lok Sabha.
But in the recent Vidhan Sabha elections she contested for the Assembly and won. She is now a member of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan cabinet. Perhaps BJP may not sponsor her for the Lok Sabha. There are indications that Yashodhararaje is grooming her son and he may be the BJP candidate from one of the constituencies, which were earlier part of Gwalior state.
While the Congress’ preparations are going on at a slow pace, the BJP has already started the process of choosing party nominees. BJP leadership is confident of winning more than 25 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP leadership is feeling emboldened because of the outcome of
opinion polls held after the Vidhan Sabha polls.