The Kamal Nath government appeared on the brink on Monday as 18 Madhya Pradesh MLAs landed in Bengaluru, in a sharp escalation of the crisis that has now been ongoing for over a week. It also emerged that the infighting at the core of the Congress' troubles is between the party high-command and Kamal Nath at one end and Jyotiraditya Scindia at the other, with Sonia Gandhi's denial time for Scindia for a meeting allegedly precipitating the events witnessed on Monday.
Sources say that Jyoritaditya Scindia has been unhappy for a long time by the way he was treated by the Congress high command. According to sources, Scindia is at present in Delhi and the Congress is ready to accept his demands, be it becoming the chief of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee or a nomination to the Rajya Sabha - but it may be too little too late as Scindia is purportedly already in touch with the BJP.
If Scindia decides to quit the Congress, it would be a hammerblow to the grand old party. Here's why:
Jyotiraditya Scindia has a huge following in the state of Madhya Pradesh. He is a descendant of the royal family of Gwalior. He has a close and personal connection with people of Madhya Pradesh and is well aware of the grass-root level problems. His effective campaign can be credited for Congress winning the MP State Assembly elections. This will be surely Congress' loss if they cannot retain Scindia despite his long history with the party and his influence. He has also been a MoS in the UPA and was the party's chief whip in the previous Lok Sabha. On the other hand, Sonia Gandhi's new pick as Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House - Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has consistently made statements that have sparked controversy, not helping rebuild the party's image.
Sonia Gandhi taking over as the president of the Congress only buttresses the notion that the Congress will not allow its young guns to come to the fore. This was evident when Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath were picked as the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh respectively ignoring dynamic younger leaders like Sachin Pilot and Scindia, despite their sizeable contribution to the party's victory. In the period after Rahul Gandhi stepping down as party chief, many had called for elections to be held to pick his successor. However, the Congress appeared to not have given this a thought as it 'unanimously' decided that Sonia Gandhi would have to return to lead the party.
Scindia, 49, lost out in the race for Chief Ministership in December 2018 when he was able to get the support of only 23 MLAs. Kamal Nath took over as Chief Minister and also retained control of the state Congress unit. Even, Rahul Gandhi, as president, wanted the old guard to make way for the young guns but it has not happened in the grand-old party. Sources also say Senior Congress leader and former CM Digvijaya Singh, along with Kamal Nath have been trying to sideline Scindia.
Scindia was assuaged briefly when he was made General Secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh along with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for last year's national election, but the Congress crashed miserably in the state. Scindia also lost his own Guna seat - a double blow in the state.
The next reason is that Congress is in a habit of depending on the Gandhi family for leadership and direction on what the party stands for. The party has not been able to found a second-generation leader except for Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra despite both claiming that they don't want to take over the leadership of the party.
Sonia Gandhi's return as party chief has only reinforced the belief that the only 'young guns' that will be allowed to blossom in the party are those from the Gandhi-Vadra family. While the likes of Scindia and Pilot have been sidelined, the Vadras have showed signs of wanting to introduce the next generation of 'dynasts' into Indian politics, making a show of Priyanka Vadra and Robert Vadra's son Rehan's first time out voting, as he showed up before the cameras after exercising his franchise in the recently held Delhi elections. Speaking about casting his vote, Rehan said it was a nice feeling to take part in the democratic process finally. "Everyone should exercise their right to vote," the youngster was quoted as saying.
The departure of a leader like Jyotiraditya Scindia would hurt any party, but in Congress' case it goes beyond the possible fall of the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh. It is emblematic of a range of issues that continue to plague the party that has witnessed a massive decline in seat-share and vote-share in two consecutive Lok Sabha polls, plus a complete wipe-out in multiple key elections during the last 6 years.