The joke in the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh is that Jyotiraditya Scindhia has got traction, Digvijay Singh has got sangathan (organisation) and Kamalnath has got the money muscle. Reasonably speaking all three elements are required to win assembly elections. Congress has not been able to retain Madhya Pradesh since 2003.
This will be the fourth assembly election where Congress will be pitched directly against Shivraj Singh Chauhan, a strong OBC leader who has been able to dodge controversies by playing the affable 'mama-ji' image in Madhya Pradesh’s politics.
Despite a fertile ground and 15 years of anti-incumbency, Congress has not been able to set its house in order.
For the first time, it is also not sure whether Shivraj Chauhan will be projected as the chief minister under the new dispensation as at one point of time he was a compatriot of Narendra Modi. Also, for the first time, Shivraj Singh Chauhan is under fire from people on the issue of sadak and bijali which were associated with former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that even the BJP leadership within Madhya Pradesh is upset with Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
Despite a fertile ground and 15 years of anti-incumbency, Congress has not been able to set its house in order. As of now Kamalnath and Digvijay Singh are on the same side and Jyotiraditya Scindhia on the other. Then there are leaders, such as Kantilal Bhuria, Suresh Pachouri, Rahul Singh and Arun Yadav. The assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are a year away, and despite the massive farmer stir rocking the state, the Congress has not been able to project any leader nor succeeded in getting all of them on the same page. So, MP Congress is full of leaders bereft of unity. That's the bane. It is not the organisation but fight at the top in Madhya Pradesh which has led to its defeat from 2003 onwards.
Congress should remember that when even former CM Andhra Pradesh YSR Reddy got ample time to organise his padyatra in Andhra Pradesh, which was being run by TDP for the last 10 years, he kept it limited to a 3-months time span. Instead, Digvijay has gone for a 6-month padyatra (though he insists its non-political nature) who will neither be made PCC President nor projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the state.
What is of great significance is that over the last 10 years, the proportion of votes going to third parties have reduced significantly, with the Congress and the BJP votes swelling every time. In 2007, third parties got 29.97 per cent votes. In 2013, they got 18.74 and during the Lok Sabha elections, the numbers got reduced to 9.89 per cent of votes. On the other hand, even during its worst performance in 2014, Congress retained 35 per cent votes, whereas, BJP’s vote swelled to 55 per cent.
Congress is within the striking distance of victory, its leaders remain unorganised and the party seems to be dithering in taking a call to project one person as the face of the state.
Unlike Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s domain, Madhya Pradesh revolves more around Shivraj Singh Chauhan's gentle persona. For the first time, Congress is within the striking distance of victory but its leaders remain unorganised and the party seems to be dithering in taking a call to project one person as the face of the state.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi must call off the bluff of the vested leadership in the state and decide the candidate who would front the state.
If Congress leadership cannot pick up a ripe state like Madhya Pradesh then it should rethink whether it has the right to continue in the present avatar. Rahul Gandhi must solve the problem of plenty.