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Turf war dominates Congress candidate selection

No indications of unity of purpose and factional position the guiding principle, say party workers
Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 05.11.18, 08:36 PM

The Congress has declared the names of 171 candidates so far for the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh later this month but factional interests appear to have overridden the ability to win in the selection of nominees.

The dominant view is that the central leadership could have managed this vital aspect better.

Sources said there was abnormal pressure this time on the leadership, with around 3,000 serious candidates vying for tickets for the 230 seats as the Congress is expected to exploit the 15-year-strong anti-incumbency in the BJP-ruled state.

But the resolve to field candidates solely on objective assessments from the field finally crumbled under the obstinacy of senior leaders, they said.

“It could have been much better,” remarked a senior leader involved in the exercise. “Influential leaders were more interested in protecting their political turf and more or less managed to extract tickets for their loyalists.”

Key players like Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath played their cards ruthlessly, they said, keeping in mind the post-poll jostling for the chief minister’s post if the party emerged victorious.

“The tussle among the top leaders indicates they are very hopeful of snatching power from the BJP but the fierce personal ambitions can harm the party in the elections,” one leader told The Telegraph from Bhopal.

“There are no indications of unity of purpose and factional position remains the guiding principle. The candidate selections clearly indicate a desire among the party veterans to checkmate Scindia, who is raring to become the chief minister.”

Another leader said Digvijaya and Scindia had emerged as key players. “While Digvijaya has ruled himself out of the race for the chief minister’s post, the behind-the-scenes power play offers enough evidence of something else,” the leader said.

“There has been no compromise and every leader fought bitterly to ensure their supporters get elected in maximum numbers. Suresh Pachauri, Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Ajay Singh appear to have fallen by the wayside, but Digvijaya and Scindia are bound to have another tussle in case the Congress gets a majority.”

Party chief Rahul Gandhi, however, didn’t give up completely and managed to resist pressure wherever it was possible. While 46 sitting MLAs have been nominated, the list of 171 includes over 50 new faces, including 22 women.

Many young activists have got tickets, while the decision to field former AIIMS doctor Hiralal Alawa is being hailed as a bold tactic.

Alawa heads the tribal outfit Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti, which has influence in around 50 seats.

Two major concerns — dynastic pressure and outsiders — could not be addressed this time too. While senior leaders managed to extract tickets for their relatives, at least four persons who joined the Congress recently were given tickets despite Rahul’s categorical assertion that he would block paratroopers.

Digvijaya’s son, brother and nephew would contest the November 28 poll, as would former state unit chief Kantilal Bhuria’s son and niece.

Other senior leaders like Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Srinivas Tiwari also managed tickets for their sons. Former MPs Pachauri, Vijaylaxmi Sadho, Sajjan Singh Verma and Surendra Singh would contest too.

None of the main contenders for the chief minister’s post — Kamal Nath, Digvijaya and Scindia — would contest.


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