It is with a sense of deja vu that one is witnessing the political developments unfolding in Madhya Pradesh. Because if it confirms anything, it is that the Congress does not learn from past mistakes.
When the Congress won a cliffhanger of an election in Madhya Pradesh in 2018, it was evident that the jostling for the top job was between Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Just like it was between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot in neighbouring Rajasthan. In both states, the Congress under Rahul Gandhi decided to give the baton of power to the senior guy. But while Pilot at least got the deputy CM post, Scindia was left with next to nothing. His defeat from Guna in the 2019 Lok Sabha election only made his position worse.
It is proof of political immaturity that the Congress believed that the BJP won’t try to fish in Bhopal’s troubled waters especially with the wafer-thin majority the ruling party has in the Madhya Pradesh assembly. Political sagacity demanded that the leadership kept Scindia in good humour and not put all the eggs in the Kamal Nath basket.
What has happened in Madhya Pradesh is reminiscent of the manner in which the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress handled Andhra Pradesh after YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009. While it is true that YSR’s son Jaganmohan Reddy displayed a certain sense of entitlement in expecting that his father’s post will automatically be his, the brash manner in which the top Congress leadership – especially the coterie around the then Congress president – handled the situation was politically suicidal. Circumstances were created to provoke the temperamental Jagan to exit the party.
It is no surprise then that after administering a lameduck government from 2009 to 2014 in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress went downhill after that – both in Telangana and the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Political watchers in Andhra Pradesh will tell you how the party showed lack of courtesy and gratitude to the family of YSR, who had a huge role to play in the formation of UPA 1 and UPA 2, with a rich haul of 29 and 33 Lok Sabha seats in 2004 and 2009 elections respectively.
But unlike Scindia who is expected to get the political gravy after joining the BJP, Jagan endured a rough and bumpy journey with over an year in jail and several months on the road during padyatras. His electoral triumph in 2019 when he won 151/175 assembly seats, was a message to the Congress never to be dismissive about anyone but be accommodative in the best manner possible.
If its Jagan strategy was not bad enough, the Congress attempted political harakiri by joining hands with bete noire Chandrababu Naidu in Telangana in 2018, only to taste a resounding defeat. This T20 game approach to politics has cost the Congress dear.
Most political pundits in Delhi believe that Scindia switching sides will open the floodgates for more Gen-next Congress leaders to jump ship. With the Rajya Sabha variety of Congress leaders still calling the shots in the party and an inability to settle the leadership question, things look anything but rosy for the grand old party.