Though there is no word from the Congress High Command as yet, the buzz in Madhya Pradesh is that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be the party’s face in next year’s Assembly elections. Member of Lok Sabha from Guna constituency, Scindia has increased his visits to the State. In the aftermath of the police firing on farmers in Mandsaur district in early June, Scindia held a three-day Satyagraha in Bhopal. Most of the State party leaders, including AICC General Secretary and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, attended it. Later Scindia held a one-day demonstration at Khalghat in Khargone district on the farmers’ issue. Veteran Congress leader Kamal Nath, who did not come to Bhopal, attended it there. Scindia has since held several programmes in the State to highlight the travails of the people in the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, with main emphasis on the plight of the farmers in the State.
Appearances apart, the disquiet among Congress chieftains of the State at the emergence of Scindia as the possible chief ministerial candidate is much too palpable. Some time back, Kamal Nath had started attacking the Chouhan government with unusual regularity following media reports that he was soon going to be named as the PCC chief in place of Arun Yadav and was going to be the chief ministerial candidate. After Scindia’s name started doing the rounds, Kamal Nath’s belligerency has waned. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh is not seen in the current (monsoon) session of the Assembly in the same ebullient form which he displayed the last time as the Leader of Opposition. He was himself aspiring to lead the party in the elections.
Digvijaya Singh is a case apart. Once he had seen in Ajay Singh the next Chief Minister. At another time at a party function at Chhindwara, he had favoured Kamal Nath. Chhindwara is Kamal Nath’s Lok Sabha constituency. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that he does not like Scindia, nor, for that matter, did he like Scindia’s father, late Madhavrao Scindia. In fact, the only Scindia he liked was Madhavrao’s late mother Vijayaraje Scindia. Vijayaraje, one of the seniormost BJP leaders, fully reciprocated Digvijaya Singh’s sentiments and often praised the Congress leader publicly, to utter chagrin of the late BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa.
At the farmers’ rally organised by Jyotiraditya in Lahar in Bhind district early this month, Digvijaya Singh left the party workers aghast when towards the close of his speech, he looked at Scindia and said: ‘go and fight BJP and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, NOT ME.’
Digvijaya Singh has reiterated that he is not interested in Madhya Pradesh politics. He will now undertake spiritual parikrama of river Narmada from October 1. It may take several months to go round the river on foot.
Interestingly, Rubina Sharma Singh, wife of Digvijaya Singh’s younger brother Lakshman Singh, has pleaded for Scindia. In a Facebook post she says: ‘Jyotiraditya Scindia is making a great effort to resurrect the Congress Party here in Madhya Pradesh. Now, the rest of the Party leaders need to genuinely support him and stop this ego tussle they have with him.’ A similar appeal was made by Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh (who is Congress MLA) at Scindia’s Bhopal Satyagraha in early June.
The BJP leaders, too, have concentrated their attacks on Scindia. To which level they can go to malign Scindia is shown by an incident. A trauma centre was to be inaugurated by Scindia in Ashoknagar in his Lok Sabha constituency where local BJP MLA Gopinath Jatav, a Dalit, was also invited. Jatav, however, pre-empted it and inaugurated it a day earlier. Congress leader and Scindia’s representative Amit Tavre promptly issued a statement that the trauma centre had been contaminated by the touch of a Dalit and would be washed with gangajal. The Congress leaders were stunned by this unauthorised statement. District Congress Committee president Gajram Singh Yadav promptly expelled Tavre from the party for six years. Scindia removed him from the responsibilities of his representative.
BJP leaders denounced Scindia’s feudal attitude and his prejudice against Dalits. On a directive from State BJP president Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan, the BJP workers burnt effigies of Scindia at district headquarters all over the State on July 24.