By Praveen Dwivedi
Bhopal, Oct 1 (IANS): At a crucial juncture when the Congress leadership is making all out efforts to revive the grand old party with the 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' led by Rahul Gandhi, crisis broke out in Rajasthan, which led to twists and turns in the filing of nomination for the Congress presidential poll scheduled on October 17.
Factionalism that came to the fore in Rajasthan over the conflict between two camps led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot brings back the memory of what had happened in Madhya Pradesh in 2020, when Jyotiraditya Scindia jumped ship to the BJP, resulting in the fall of the Kamal Nath-led Congress government within 15 months of assuming power.
However, senior Congress leaders, including Kamal Nath, said the situation in Rajasthan is not what it was in Madhya Pradesh.
Commenting on the comparison between the current crisis in Rajasthan and what happened in Madhya Pradesh in 2020, Kamal Nath recently said, "Sachin Pilot didn't do anything wrong. He was asked to be at the party headquarters and he followed the instructions of the party chief. There is no basis of comparing Rajasthan's situation with happened in Madhya Pradesh."
With Assembly elections scheduled in Madhya Pradesh next year, the Congress led by Kamal Nath seems to be leaving no stone unturned to return to power, and more importantly, reviving the grand old party.
Hopes are pinned on the Congress leadership in Madhya Pradesh as a victory in the Assembly polls will energise the entire party cadre ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Perhaps this was the reason why Kamal Nath distanced himself from the race to be the next Congress President, despite his name doing the rounds, from Bhopal to Delhi.
Kamal Nath kept saying that he would focus on Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, making it clear that he is not interested to become the next Congress chief.
"I have repeatedly said that I am not interested in contesting the AICC presidential poll. Instead, I want to focus on Madhya Pradesh only. Assembly elections are just one year away and a lot of work needs to be done to bring the party back in power," Kamal Nath had said after meeting Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Wednesday.
The senior Congress leader has been reiterating that the party will form the government in Madhya Pradesh after the 2023 elections, even making promises like reintroducing the 'old pension' system for the state government employees.
Although the veteran Congress leader has been a nine-time MP from his hometown Chhindwara, Kamal Nath became active in Madhya Pradesh politics in 2018 after he became the state head of the party in the run-up to the 2018 Assembly elections.
In 2018, Kamal Nath was sworn-in as the 18th Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, bringing to an end 15 years of BJP rule in the state which had become the saffron party's stronghold.
However, in 2020, 22 Congress MLAs resigned along with Jyotiraditya Scindia, resulting in the collapse of the Kamal Nath-led government and bringing back BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister for a fourth term.
Political observers believe that after the collapse of the 15-month-old government, the biggest challenge before Kamal Nath was to keep the leaders of different factions united and to ensure that no factionalism emerges within the party.
Kamal Nath remained the MPCC President even after his government collapsed, and thereafter he also led the party in the Assembly as the leader of opposition before stepping down in April 2022, when voices were raised for ‘one man one post' in the party.
And his efforts bore fruits after veteran party leader Digvijaya Singh repeatedly said that Congress will contest the 2023 Assembly elections under Kamal Nath's leadership.
After being nominated unanimously to lead the party in the run-up to the 2023 Assembly elections, Kamal Nath's first step was to form a committee to oversee the political developments in Madhya Pradesh. The committee includes all senior party leaders in the state who have been assigned different tasks.
Stepping up to strengthen the party ahead of the Assembly elections, Kamal Nath has made several structural changes, especially in the lower-level party cadre. District and block heads have been appointed on the basis of their performance reports.
Bouncing back from the 2020 crisis, Kamal Nath seems to be re-energising the party cadre ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections.