MP Congress Factional Tussle Casts Shadow on LoP Choice
Although the state Congress is still smarting from the severe drubbing received by it in the recent MP Assembly polls, the crushing defeat has hardly helped to bury the ghosts of the bitter factional tussle that plagues the party in its one-time stronghold.
And the fault lines came to the fore yet again on Monday over the election of the new Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state Assembly.
Senior leader and one of the front-runners for the LoP post Mahendra Singh Kalukheda, who won from Mungaoli, said previous incumbent Ajay Singh was picked on “compassionate grounds”.
Kalukheda, who belongs to the camp of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union Minister Kamal Nath, is facing stiff resistance from Singh, already eyeing a second stint as LoP. “I am the seniormost Congress MLA in the state and I should have been made the LoP in the last term itself but on compassionate grounds someone else was made the LoP,” he said.
A peeved Singh retaliated by saying that Kalukheda had lost his mental balance.
“I do not want to comment on his mental status, he has lost it,” said the MLA from Churhat.
Meanwhile, it is former MP Chief Minister and party general secretary Digvijay Singh, who is heading the campaign in Delhi to ensure a second term for Singh as LoP.
On Sunday, Oscar Fernandes and CP Joshi – two emissaries sent by the high command to gauge the mood of the MLAs in the state, left the choice of the new LoP to Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi since they were unable to take a decision in this regard despite holding marathon talks with the party legislators.
Kalukheda loyalists claim that the veteran Congressman enjoys the support of 31 out of the party’s 58 MLAs.
“A majority of the MLAs want him to be the LoP. We contested the last elections under Singh and it was a disaster. A change of guard is needed and that is what we have told the observers,” an MLA supporting Kalukheda said.
The pro-Singh faction, though, said he had the support of 35 MLAs.
Speaking to Express Singh, who is the son of Nehru-Gandhi family faithful and Congress stalwart, the late Arjun Singh, said he was not interested in a verbal spat with Kalukheda.
“I am not making any statement; he is the only one who is making such irresponsible comments. Rather than speaking to the media, he should wait for the decision of the high command,” he said.
The political manoeuvring by the party’s regional satraps like Digvijay, Scindia, Nath and Suresh Pachouri, is being seen as one of the major reasons that contributed to the Congress’ dismal showing in the elections. The party, which had won 71 seats in 2008, could only manage 58 seats this time.