Rahul Gandhi's campaign to wrest Madhya Pradesh from the BJP in this month's assembly elections in the state was plunged into fresh turmoil on Friday, as after an allegedly blistering spat between senior Congress leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh, now, a former Congress MP and MLA from the state has defected to the BJP, alleging caste discrimination.
Premchand Guddu, a Lok Sabha member in the second UPA and a Madhya Pradesh MLA under the chief ministership of Digvijaya Singh, has departed the Congress and joined the BJP. Speaking to Republic TV, Guddu gave his reasons for the switch:
"Discrimination is being done against SC/STs and they're not being involved in any programmes. And I don't think that they (Congress) want to form a government with the support of the 37-38% SC/STs there. If they manage to keep their 57 seats (in 231-seat assembly), it'll be a big achievement."
When asked whether he had written to the party top brass about his complaints, he said, "I have written hundreds of mails but nobody paid any heed. Keeping 57 seats will also be a problem for them."
Premchand Guddu went on to lament the goings-on in the Congress, particularly the Scindia-Digvijaya tussle:
"It's shameful that Raja-Maharajas (Digvijaya is referred to as Raja, Scindia is descended from the line of Maharajas of Gwalior) have to fight over tickets. Was there one SC/ST neta who was called there? They want to form a government of maharajas and businessmen and loot. We won't let them."
The matters being alluded to by Guddu entail a furious argument at the Congress Central Election Committee (CEC) meeting on Wednesday. As per sources, Jyotiraditya Scindia had pitched candidates for areas where Digvijaya Singh has a stronger hold, causing the latter to object. Both then argued in the presence of Rahul Gandhi who was eventually forced to call for calm and pitch for leveraging BJP's anti-incumbency rather than infighting. The Congress president then appointed a three-member committee including senior leaders Veerappa Moily, Ashok Gehlot and Ahmed Patel to oversee the election ticket process.
On Friday the Congress finalised a list of 200 candidates at its CEC meeting, as per sources, though the list is yet to be formally declared. Scindia and Digvijaya Singh were both present with Scindia arriving a little late. Scindia and Kamal Nath are said to be in Rahul Gandhi's consideration for the Congress' chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections, while Digvijaya Singh, a two-time MP CM, has taken a back seat.