Scindia was said to be enjoying loyalty of at least three dozen MLAs in the 114-member Congress Legislature Party.
Bhopal: Sonia Gandhi’s return as Congress boss may strengthen hands of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath leaving his “rival”, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has been sulking ever since he lost the coveted post of chief minister to the septuagenarian leader, anxious.
Mr Scindia’s bold pro-Article 370 stand made, literally, on the eve of restoration of Congress leadership to Sonia Gandhi from AICC president Rahul, considered his “godfather” in the party, was viewed in the ruling Congress here as a sign of his “nervousness” over the prospects of balance of power in the state government as well as the party in MP tilting in favour of the chief minister.
Mr Scindia was said to be enjoying loyalty of at least three dozen MLAs in the 114-member Congress Legislature Party.
The Kamal Nath government has a wafer-thin majority in the 230-member Assembly and survived on outside support from two BSP MLAs, one SP legislator and four Independents. BJP has strength of 108 in the House.
“Mr Nath may further firm up his grip over Congress in MP as well as in his government following change in leadership in the party because of his proximity to Ms Gandhi, which may curtail Mr Scindia’s influence in the party.
“Mr Scindia who has found himself virtually at the crossroads of his political career following his shocking defeat in the recently held Lok Sabha elections from Guna, considered his family’s traditional bastion, cannot afford to suffer marginalisation in the party in MP at the juncture, a senior Congress leader here assessed requesting not to be quoted.
Mr Scindia currently holds no position in the party after his recent resignation for the charge of AICC general secretary.
“Mr Scindia is still considered a charismatic leader in MP despite his loss in LS polls. But, he is also facing the prospect of losing his followers in Congress to his rival camps if he failed to retain his ‘waning’ influence in the party,” said another Congress leader seeking anonymity.
Party sources said Mr Nath had fallen from the grace of Mr Gandhi following debacle of Congress in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections in MP in which party could manage to win only one out of 29 seats.
Mr Gandhi’s annoyance with Mr Nath can be gauged from his statement given soon after the announcement of results of LS polls regretting that the MP chief minister as well as former Union home minister P Chidambaram had kept interests of their sons above that of the party.
Sources said Nath’s camp has held Mr Scindia responsible for driving a wedge between him and Mr Gandhi. The chief minister had reportedly withstood pressure from then party high command to resign from the post of MP Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president owning responsibility for the disastrous show of party in the last LS polls.
In fact, Mr Nath had failed to secure one-to-one audience with Mr Gandhi to discuss with him on wide ranging issues pertaining to party and his government such as long-awaited expansion of his Cabinet and appointment of a new PCC chief.
“Mr Nath’s proximity to Ms Gandhi coupled with his ongoing bonhomie with another factional leader in the party, maverick Digvijay Singh, may make him emerge stronger in the changed scenario, causing concern in the Scindia camp,” sources said.
Scindia camp has appeared nervous over the development in the party, but not yet sounded hopeless.
“As far as I know, the assignment given to Ms Gandhi as interim president of the party was to keep the flock in the party together at this juncture. Hence, we hope Mr Scindia would be suitably accommodated in the party either as one of the working presidents of AICC or as chief of Congress in MP.
“Besides, a seasoned politician and shrewd strategist as he is known, the chief minister would certainly not risk stability of his government by sidelining Mr Scindia in Congress at this stage,” a Congress leader considered close to Mr Scindia said.
Incidentally, talks have already started making rounds in the Congress here that Mr Nath might use his influence with Ms Gandhi to ensure either he retained the post of PCC chief or his nominee, most likely tribal leader and state home minister Bala Bachhan, is appointed to the party post.
“Mr Nath appeared not worried about stability of his government. He has his eyes on at least half-a-dozen BJP MLAs to back his government, besides being confident of winning the ensuing by-elections to Jhabua Assembly constituency, fell vacant following the election of sitting MLA and BJP leader G.S. Damhor to the LS recently,” sources in the Nath camp disclosed. That leaves Mr Scindia really worried.