Bhopal: Even as the clamour around factionalism, disputes and disagreements among the seasoned leaders of the Congress’ Madhya Pradesh unit over the highest post in the party — which used to be in the public domain, has considerably toned down following intervention by the state’s party chief Kamal Nath and Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in view of the upcoming state assembly elections in 2023, not everything seems to be in proper order in the house of the party’s key rival — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The state’s ruling BJP, where talks surrounding factionalism and political aspirations used to be behind the curtains, is now grappling with issues such as groupism, with sources claiming things getting escalated as the days for assembly elections are inching closer.
The state’s top BJP leaders, aspiring to be named as replacement of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, have directly or indirectly began exhibiting strength through their supporters.
The fresh round of power show seems to have started after Chouhan was removed from the party’s decision making bodies — parliamentary board and the central election committee recently — a development which fuelled enough speculation around change of leadership in Madhya Pradesh. In fact, Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia’s name as replacement of Chouhan — a BJP veteran, has already started making rounds in the political alleys.
The new Scindia-Vijayvargiya chemistry
Scindia, who joined BJP after quitting Congress in March 2020, and seasoned politician from Indore division and BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayavargiya were often seen as arch- rivals so far — not only in politics but in the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) as well. However, the “new chemistry” between them throws hints towards the two having shaken hands together to play a new innings in state’s political field. At least three such instances within a month’s span indicate that.
First — Scindia’s meeting with Vijayavargiya at the latter’s home in Indore. Second — Scindia coming down from dais and taking Vijayavargiya on stage during an annual award function of MPCA in Indore; and the third — power show by Scindia’s supporters during his visit to BJP headquarters in Bhopal for a meeting last week.
Even as, Vijayavargiya, though often could be heard reiterating that the BJP will stand behind Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the party will contest the next assembly elections under his (Chouhan) leadership, his political rivalry with Chouhan is not hidden.
Vijayavargiya was among those senior BJP leaders, who were earlier vocal against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government and remained out of Madhya Pradesh’s politics for years.
Now, the new chemistry between Vijayavargiya and Scindia has come as a surprise not only to Shivraj faction but some more senior BJP leaders who have been aspiring to sit on the top-most chair in the Madhya Pradesh government.
Interestingly, a few days ago, former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, popularly known as “Tai” visited Bhopal and held a close-door meeting with Chouhan and V.D. Sharma. Political observers viewed this meeting as a counter against Scindia-Vijayvargiya’s new chemistry, and such a view also came up since Mahajan and Vijayavargiya are considered to be of “opposite factions” in the politics of Indore division.
V.D. Sharma and Narottam Mishra’s power show
Madhya Pradesh BJP president V.D. Sharma, considered a prominent Brahmin face in the saffron party camp, and also one of the contenders for the chief ministerial position, has held a week-long tour in the Rewa division, which includes other districts — Satna, Sidhi and Singrauli.
Sharma’s visit was as part of the BJP’s strategy to re-strengthen the party cadre ahead of assembly polls.
Notably, in the Vindhya region, which includes Rewa and Shahdol division, the BJP had won 24 out of 30 assembly seats in 2018, but lost in mayoral posts (Rewa and Singrauli) recently — a development that prompted the party leadership to rework on its strategies in the region.
Besides, the area is also considered to be dominated by the upper caste (Brahmin and Kshatriya) communities, and also directly connected with the Chhatarpur-Khajuraho.
Sharma is a Lok Sabha MP from Khajuraho. His supporters, during his recent visit to Rewa, Sidhi, Satna and Singrauli, raised similar slogans in most places such as — “Sara MP Dol Raha Hai, VD-VD Bol Raha Hai,” and “Hamara Neta Kaisa Ho, VD Sharma Jaisa Ho,” etc.
Further, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra, considered opposite to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and also due to his seniority in the party, is also one of the contenders for chief minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh.
Mishra’s resentments against Shivraj came in public domain several times when he (Mishra) left the stage due to lack of sitting arrangement during functions.
Mishra’s every visit to Delhi and meeting either with BJP president J. P. Nadda or Home Minister Amit Shah have often been among key subjects of discussions.
Now, after V. D. Sharma, Mishra also visited Satna district in Vindhya region recently, where his supporters raised slogans such as — “Hamara Neta Kaisa Ho, Narottam Mishra Jaisa Ho.”
“Both Mishra and Sharma have emerged as prominent Brahmin leaders in the BJP… their visit to Brahmin-dominated regions (Rewa, Sidhi, Santa) and their power shows are likely to put more challenges within the BJP,” said a political observer.
Further, at a time when so much is happening in Madhya Pradesh BJP’s political arena, how can one expect the former Union Minister Uma Bharti to stay silent? The firebrand BJP leader — also a former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, has been quite vocal against Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the liquor policy in the last few months, and even threatened the BJP to bear the consequences in the upcoming assembly elections.
However, on Friday, she softened her stance on Shivraj on the liquor issue. During a press conference, she indirectly questioned Shivraj’s leadership alleging ‘imbalance of the caste factor’ within the BJP government.
“The party should take the issue seriously. All is not well in Gwalior, Rewa and Sagar divisions and the party may face a challenge from people from these areas in the coming days,” Bharti said while replying to a question on former BJP leader Preetam Lodhi — ousted from the party for his controversial comments on the Brahmin community.