In an effort to overblow its victory as as a mandate against the incumbent Chief Minister Prithviraj Singh Chouhan, the Congress high command saw signs of revival of their political fortune after five long years of political exile and frustration. No sooner did they bounced back to power on a razer thin margin than the Indian National Congress was very clear about its top priority – Money, Money and Money!
It was with this primary motivation that a more corporate-savvy Kamalnath was preferred as the chief minister of the state, overriding a more genuine but emotional man of the masses—Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Clear as it may seem, this decision also had roots in the new leadership issues within the Nehru Gandhi family. Scindia was a young leader from the Rahul Gandhi circle. At the same time, clever old bulls like Digvijay Singh and Kamalnath belonged to the ‘80s of Congress politics, supported by Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel.
However, Scindia kept his patience and waited, expecting at least the presidentship of the party in Madhya Pradesh. Swaying over their victory in three large states of the Hindi heartland, the central leadership also promised him an important portfolio in the central cabinet after a ‘certain Modi defeat’ in the general elections of 2019. The results, however, were devastating for the Congress. Not only was it routed in the state, with 39 of the 40 seats going to the BJP, but Scindia also faced a humiliating defeat in his traditional constituency of Guna, which he had never lost before.
What added to Scindia’s despair was the fact that he saw the deliberate attempt of senior congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh in this defeat. The overall results also blew the cover of the incompetence and complacency of the central high command of the Congress, further highlighting its unwillingness to accept the truth.
Scindia knew that it was the punishment of the masses against the abusive campaign of Rahul Gandhi and his team against Narendra Modi.
He also understood that the promises of loan waivers for farmers were even gone in thin air and that within six months of coming to power in the state, the Kamalnath government had lost it.
The agony of Jyotiraditya was further multiplied with the negligent attitude of the national leadership towards his leadership and his political standing, also denying him his rightful share in the political power of Madhya Pradesh.
Hence, it was not even a matter of a time that he took to the masses and the media to set the record straight. In August 2019, several of his supporters threatened the Congress leadership of mass resignation if he was not made the state president immediately. The uproar gathered some momentum, but one visit by Kamalnath and Digvijay Singh to Delhi ensured that the decision to the prime position was postponed indefinitely. It was then that Jyotiraditya Scindia sent a serious message to his senior leaders, once again from a public platform. He changed his identity on his Twitter handle from ‘Leader of Congress Party’ to ‘public servant and cricket enthusiast’. But the arrogant Gandhis once again chose to overlook it. In the meantime, the Kamalnath government kept committing one historical blunder after other.
The first in the series was the mass transfer of administrative officers. In a fit to ‘punish’ the officers who served under the BJP reign, the Kamalnath government ended up sending experienced performers in the loop lines, while bringing corrupt and ‘revenue-generating’ officers to critical positions, throwing the state in a dizzy of corruption.
The impact was clear. The state saw a massive shortage of urea for the farmers and electric supply interruptions that reminded the people of Digvijay Singh rule. Both urea and electricity are vital to farmers, who reacted strongly at the state level. The law and order in the state saw its worst with political vendetta being the priority, and minority appeasement topping the list.
The last nail in the coffin was driven when the loudspeakers of the famous Mahakaal temple in Ujjain, were removed as they ‘disturbed’ the minority community of the area. As if this was not enough, members of the minority community were allowed to block the main road to the Mahakaal temple indefinitely for anti CAA protests. Ironically, this was the same temple where Rahul Gandhi had gone for worship during his election campaign, seeking victory for his party in Madhya Pradesh. This stirred a massive discontent against the less than year-old government among the people of Madhya Pradesh. By now the transfer industry had become a tried and trusted money minting industry. Every petty Congress leader, biased journalists and power brokers could be seen climbing the stairs of the state secretariat with a list of expected transfers in one pocket and return obligations in the other.
It was, of course, the masses that paid the price. All major infrastructure projects in the state came to a standstill. Several national and international firms locked up their shops and left the state as they could not match the unreasonable demands of a corrupt government that was in a hurry to make up for its losses of fifteen years.
As a result, unemployment in the state reached its peak. Those who were promised employment felt cheated. Several of them took to the streets. One such group was the protesting guest teachers, who had been promised permanent appointments in the Congress manifesto. On February 13th 2020, an emotional Scindia vowed that he would take to the streets against his own government if the promises made to the teachers were not fulfilled.
Shocking as it was, the very next day, chief minister Kamalnath, when confronted by media persons, dared Scindia to take to the streets.
This proved to be the last nail in the coffin. The long term neglect, arrogance and complacency of the Gandhis, their refusal to accept the truth, and the absolute corruption of the Congress government all combined with constant and deliberate humiliation brought on him by his own party leaders in the state, left him with no option but to cross the bridge. Several of his supporting MLAs and office-bearers have resigned. The Congress party in Madhya Pradesh is bleeding from its nose for playing with his self-respect and humility.
Meanwhile, Jyotiraditya Scindia has moved on. He has expressed his extreme appreciation for the Prime Minister, his courage and his ability to implement. Something he dared even when he was in the Congress, supporting the BJP government in the Balakot strikes saying he was an ‘Indian first and a Congress worker later’. He showed the same courage in supporting the government in making article 370 ineffective from Jammu & Kashmir.
He has high hopes from the future. His people have high expectations from him.
(The writer is a Bhopal-based senior journalist)