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Crossover buzz keeps MP Cong on edge

Bhopal, Feb. 4: A fear of defection grips the Congress in Madhya Pradesh with speculation that some of its Lok Sabha MPs may join the ruling BJP between now and the general election announcement expected later this month.

Having lost two key leaders ahead of the state elections in November, the Congress’s gimlet eyes are now on a group of five Lok Sabha MPs. They are rumoured to be in touch with BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for a deal under which they would be rewarded with parliamentary nominations if they cross over.

The composition of the group has added to the Congress’s worries — two of them are Scheduled Tribe leaders, another two are from other weaker sections.

Defections from the Congress to the BJP have become a new trend in the politics of the state where the BJP has returned to power for the third time.

Uday Pratap, a Congress MP from Hoshangabad, had joined the BJP in the middle of the campaign for the November Assembly polls.

Before that, deputy leader of Opposition, Rakesh Chaturvedi, had stunned the Congress by defecting to the BJP while a no-trust motion against Chouhan was being debated in the Assembly in July.

At present, the Congress has 11 Lok Sabha MPs and the BJP 16. The state has 29 seats. The BSP has one MP while one seat is vacant because of Pratap’s switch.

Key state Congress leaders claimed ignorance about the possibility of more defections ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, but many others did not rule it out.

According to them, the Congress in Madhya Pradesh is on the verge of “going the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar way”.

The reference was to the manner in which Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh and Lalu Prasad in Bihar were seen as playing a calibrated game of wooing and weaning away the Congress’s core support base of backward castes, Dalits and sections of Muslims.

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress has been grappling with several problems. One is factionalism in the state unit where the rise of sons and daughters of satraps is reported to have demoralised the rank and file.

Another sticking point is the apparent disillusionment among several state leaders with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s perceived inaccessibility — staying away from states, denying them access and relying on Delhi-based satraps like Digvijaya Singh, Jotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath, and Suresh Pachauri among others.

Now some of the discontent seems to be spilling out. Sajjan Singh Verma, a senior Congress leader and the MP from Dewas, has turned a vocal critic of his own party.

In recent weeks, he has been openly blamed Rahul for the ills and recently questioned the Congress vice-president’s alleged role in granting Rajya Sabha nominations to veterans leaders like Digvijaya, Motilal Vora and Madhusudan Mistry.