MP Cong divided over Leader of Oppn post

A battle over who would be Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly has exposed faultlines in the Congress Monday with two main contenders targeting each other in public.

The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) failed to elect its leader Sunday, and the central observers had to return to Delhi to apprise AICC chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi of the failed exercise.

Mahendra Singh Kalukheda claimed the backing of Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Suresh Pachauri and Arun Yadav and all legislators aligned to these leaders. While running down former Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh, also a strong contender, Kalukheda said his rival had got the post the last time on "compassionate grounds''. He said being senior, the post, then and now, rightfully belonged to him.

Singh hit back saying Kalukheda has lost his mental balance. "There are no compassionate appointments in politics,'' he said.

Kalukheda is a known supporter of Scindia and Singh is seen as close to AICC general secretary and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh. Kalukheda said he won six assembly elections, three each from two different regions of the state, and one parliamentary election, and deserved to be leader of opposition.

Ajay Singh, son of former chief minister and HRD minister Arjun Singh, said the need of the hour was unity, not public statements.

The feud was on display at the legislature party meeting when observers Oscar Fernandes and C P Joshi found it difficult to get the 56 legislators to endorse a name.

The Congress had won 58 seats while the BJP's tally was 165 in the elections. After the results, Congress MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi, a supporter of Scindia, had slammed Digvijaya calling him a conspirator.

Chaturvedi had called Ajay Singh and PCC chief Kantilal Bhuria stooges of Digvijaya.

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