In MP, a ‘futile survey’, 7 changed tickets, and Congress against Congress

The party seemed ascendant until it announced tickets for the poll-bound state. Now, it seems to be hit by what some leaders call ‘internal sabotage’.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Cutouts of Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath with the Madhya Pradesh map and a picture of a protest in the backdrop.
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The Congress in Madhya Pradesh seems to be in disarray, with disgruntled ticket aspirants, intra-party fighting, and accusations about a botched up poll campaign. The party has changed seven candidates in the poll-bound state, and there is speculation about more changes on the way.

Outside the office of the Pradesh Congress Committee in Bhopal, party workers burnt down the effigies of former chief minister Digvijaya Singh and his son Jaivardhan Singh last week. There were protests outside state Congress chief Kamal Nath’s house as well, apart from several constituencies in Morena, Datia, Mandsaur, and Shujalpur.

And, after announcing 230 candidates in three separate lists, the party subsequently had to change tickets in Datia, Sumawali, Gotegaon, Jaora, Pipariya, Pichhore and Badnagar.

In Datia segment in Datia district, Avdhesh Naik, who joined the Congress in August, was eventually replaced by Rajendra Bharati, a senior leader who had lost to BJP’s former minister Narottam Mishra by just 2,656 votes in the previous election. This happened after Bharati’s supporters burnt Naik’s effigy, and Bharati spoke to the central leadership.

In Sumawali constituency of Morena, Kuldeep Sikarwar was replaced by sitting MLA Ajab Singh Kushwaha after protests by the latter’s supporters. Sikarwar came to know of the party’s decision while he had started his campaign. His supporters burnt Congress posters and flags, and Sikarwar will now contest on a BSP ticket.

Sikarwar said he was dropped as a candidate despite him being “given a ticket on the basis of a one-year survey carried out by PCC and AICC”. He said that he felt “cheated” and Kamal Nath was “responsible for this”.

In the Gotegaon segment of Narsinghpur, former MLA Shekhar Chaudhary was eventually replaced by former speaker N P Prajapati after demonstrations. And in Jaora constituency of Ratlam, Himmat Singh Shrimal was replaced by Virendra Singh Solanki. 

Shekhar Chaudhary said he was given a ticket after a survey. “I opened an office and started campaigning aggressively in my area. I was given a ticket on October 15 and then five days later I came to know that my ticket had been canceled. They didn't even inform me. I came to know about it through newspapers. I called up many senior leaders, but they didn’t pick up my phone.” 

Chaudhary said that Digvijaya Singh “didn’t respond”, and even though Kamal Nath spoke to him, “he didn’t give any satisfactory answer”. “He said that he knows I am a winning candidate, but he is helpless… I am not going to bow down. I will fight independently.”

Meanwhile, in Pipariya constituency of Narmadapuram, Kamal Nath aide’s Gurcharan Khare was replaced by Virendra Belvanshi with local Congress leaders pointing to the need for a familiar face – Khare was seen as an outsider.

In Pichore, Shailendra Singh Judev was replaced by Arvind Singh Lodhi. The segment has over 40,000 Lodhi voters, with the BJP fielding a candidate from the same community – Preetam Singh Lodhi, who lost the last election by a margin of just 2,600 votes.

In Badnagar, the Congress had to replace Rajendra Singh Solanki with incumbent MLA Murli Morwal after protests by the latter’s supporters. Morwal was ostensibly denied a ticket initially because of the rape case against his son Karan Morwal. 

Solanki said he came  to know of the party’s decision “on Wednesday afternoon while I was campaigning in Jalodiya village”. “One of my supporters called me and said that news related to the cancellation of my ticket has been published on a news website. I was surprised and really felt bad. I have been campaigning for the last five days and have been to around 20 villages. I have brought all the campaign material. The ticket was given to me on the basis of a survey, and without informing me they have canceled my ticket. I am going to take out a rally of 5,000 people to get back my ticket. And if the party still doesn’t change their decision, then I am going to contest independently.”

There is resentment among several other aspirants in other constituencies.

In Khategaon constituency in Dewas district, Congress workers pelted stones on the vehicle of party candidate Deepak Joshi, the son of former BJP chief minister Kailash Joshi who joined the Congress in May.

In Mhow constituency in Indore, supporters have turned out in large numbers to back former MLA Antar Singh Darbar, who has been replaced by Ramkishore Shukla. There have been protests in Indore as well with Darbar being a crowd-puller.

Meanwhile, in Burhanpur, around 23 Congress corporators have filed their resignation against the party’s decision to field Surendra Singh Shera.In Seoni-Malwa constituency, supporters of former MLA Omprakash Raghuvanshi have threatened to rebel against the party if Ajay Patel is not replaced as the candidate.


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A senior state Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, said that most of the tickets were decided by Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh. “Survey was conducted but I think the whole survey thing has turned out to be futile because tickets given to first choices have been changed. This is definitely going to affect the elections because so much intra-party fighting will definitely not give good results. In fact, this change of tickets will encourage other leaders also to protest against the party’s choice of candidates and this will spread, which can lead to internal sabotage against the fielded candidates.” 

“Central leadership is also silent. The central leadership needs to intervene or it will be too late. Instead of fighting BJP, the Congress will end up fighting each other in elections.”

Congress state vice president Damodar Yadav had left the party this week, claiming that he had written to Nath and AICC general secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh Randeep Surjewala to raise concerns about the state of affairs. He accused Digvijaya Singh of compromising the party’s interests while promoting his son Jaivardhan Singh.

Rajendra Sharma, a journalist and political analyst, said there is unrest over ticket distribution in the BJP too but not at the scale seen within the Congress. “Congress said that they conducted the survey, and they distributed the tickets on the basis of the survey. But now if there are changes to the tickets which were distributed on the basis of survey, it clearly shows that there is deep infighting among the various factions like Kamal Nath faction, Digvijaya Singh faction, Suresh Pachori faction, Arun Yadav faction and Kantilal Bhuria faction…It seems that the leadership has distributed tickets without taking other leaders into confidence.”

Meanwhile, the BJP continues to target the Congress over factionalism within its state unit. To suggest the same, it earlier tweeted a video of remarks made by Nath and Singh on stage on the day the Congress released its manifesto on October 17.

However, at the event, the two leaders tried to signal that their relationship was strong. Nath said that he had told people to “tear Digvijaya Singh’s clothes” if their concerns were not addressed, but Singh intervened and said no paper is signed without the state Congress chief. “Then whose clothes should be torn,” he asked as the room burst into laughter. 

Assembly polls will be held in Madhya Pradesh on November 17 and the votes will be counted on December 3.

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