Madhya Pradesh polls verdict: Show of unity came a little too late for Congress

Jyotiraditya ScindiaJyotiraditya Scindia (AP)

MILIND GHATWAI

When the opposition party has to begin its challenge in the election year by holding "unity rallies" to publicly convey that different factions have come together, it's not really difficult to predict which way the wind is likely to blow.

The faction-ridden unit of the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh had to go out of the way to bring all its satraps on one platform, something it had done even in the runup to the 2008 election. It wasn't clear whether the exercise was meant to reassure the cadres or the leaders themselves. By the time the party appeared to have got its act together it was too late.

In this erstwhile stronghold, the party has already spent 10 years in the opposition since 2003, the period that saw its organisation depleting in stark contrast to the BJP's consolidation. But instead for compensating for the relative lack of cadres, the high command culture delayed the decision-making process.

Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was made the campaign committee chief only in September, the time by which the BJP had already done its homework about weak constituencies and vulnerable candidates.

If Scindia was appointed late, the selection of candidates was not quick either. The so-called Rahul Gandhi formula of ticket-distribution was followed more in breach. Though the Congress vice-president had made a few trips to Madhya Pradesh to acquaint himself with the ground realities it did not help the party's cause.

Scindia's entry as a young, energetic and clean politician coincided with former chief minister Digvijaya Singh's public humiliation when he could not make it to the union minister's first press conference and had to return after knocking the main door of the hall in the PCC headquarters in Bhopal. Singh followed this with his remarks about setting sun.

The BJP exploited Scindia's elevation by projecting it as an insult to a tribal, a reference to former union minister Kantilal Bhuria, who since becoming the PCC chief was harbouring the ambition of becoming the next chief minister. Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh, who nursed a similar aspiration, had to remain content with being the chairman of chargesheet committee.

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