Bhopal, Dec. 6: Even as Madhya Pradesh chief minister-designate Uma Bharti began preparing the list of her council of ministers, knives were out in the Congress to fix responsibility for its worst-ever performance in the state.
Outgoing chief minister Digvijay Singh has prepared a 10-page note on the election results, on the eve of a crucial Congress working committee meeting in Delhi.
The report candidly acknowledges people’s anger but also blames the “Centre’s indifferent attitude” towards improvement of roads and power supply, saying the state government was hindered in improving the situation because the Centre did not provide adequate funds.
Digvijay’s report also deals at length with the rise of smaller parties, while accepting that the state organisation failed to check this trend.
The outgoing chief minister states that while he had expected the Gondwana Gantantra Party to eat into the BJP’s votes in the Mahakaushal region, the reverse happened. Thus, in real terms, the BJP’s vote share went up by 0.5 per cent, while the Congress suffered a loss of 11 per cent.
Such finger-pointing reports apart, a search is on for a new Madhya Pradesh Congress chief and a leader of the party in the Assembly as Digvijay has made it clear that he would not hold any post.
The options before the Congress are limited. In the 10 years that Digvijay ruled, he systematically eroded organisational strength to emerge as an all-powerful satrap. Now that he planning to call it quits, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has an uphill task in finding a successor.
Those whose names are doing the rounds include Subhash Yadav, a former deputy chief minister belonging to the backward classes, Suresh Pachauri, the Rajya Sabha member who had lost heavily to Uma Bharti in the 1999 general elections, and Jyotiraditya Scindia.
While Scindia is seen as an energetic young leader, he lacks statewide reach. Moreover, in a state where caste aspirations are high, the central leadership would need to be careful in projecting him over influential members of the backwards classes and tribals.
Jamuna Devi, a tribal leader who has been winning elections since 1952, is being considered for leader of the 38-member Congress legislative party in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly.
Jamuna’s biggest drawback is she is outspoken and has on several occasions caused acute embarrassment to the party by criticising Digvijay. Senior leader Arjun Singh is lobbying for son Rahul.
Unencumbered by such worries, Bharti, according to BJP sources, has given top priority to a clean image, regional balance, and gender and caste equations while finalising her team.
“The thrust would be on development, perseverance and accountability,” said a close associate of the chief minister-designate while acknowledging that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders were closely assisting Bharti in drawing up her “dream team”.