A day after senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia threatened to take to the streets if his party’s government in Madhya Pradesh failed to meet the demands of protesting guest teachers, Chief Minister Kamal Nath virtually dared him to do so, deepening the tug of war between the two senior leaders.
On Saturday, after a coordination committee meeting of the Madhya Pradesh Congress held at the CM’s Delhi residence to iron out differences in the state party unit, when reporters asked Nath about Scindia’s statement, he simply said, “Toh woh utar jaaye (let him take to the streets).” The CM, who was in his car, did not take any further questions.
In fact, Scindia left early from the coordination committee meeting, which went on even after he left. The meeting, called by AICC general secretary in charge of the state Deepak Babaria, was also attended by senior leaders Digvijaya Singh and Meenakshi Natarajan and state Education Minister Jitu Patwari, who is said to be lobbying hard for the post of Madhya Pradesh Congress president. At present, CM Nath heads the Congress unit in the state.
While Congress leaders claimed Scindia did not walk out in a huff, sources in the party said he was clearly unhappy. While party leaders claimed he left early because he had a prior engagement, Nath’s statement after the meeting indicated that all efforts at a rapprochement between the two had come to naught.
Babaria told The Sunday Express, “It was a good meeting. He (Scindia) had told me yesterday itself that he has some prior engagement… By then, we had by and large completed the discussion.”
The meeting took place a day after Scindia, while addressing a rally in Tikamgarh, told guest teachers, who have been protesting for weeks in Bhopal demanding that their services be regularised, that he would stand with them and take to the streets with them if needed. “
“Our manifesto (for Assembly elections) had promised to fulfil your demand. The manifesto is a sacred book for us. If every promise is not fulfilled, I will take to the streets with you. Don’t think you are alone,’’ he had said.
On Saturday, Babaria said he saw nothing wrong in Scindia’s remarks. “He had talked about implementing manifesto commitments… the aspirations of the people should reflect in the administration. Not just government, at times there is laxity in the administration too. There are BJP-oriented people… they try to frustrate. Whatever he (Scindia) said yeh toh logon ko saat jhodne ki prakriya hain (it’s an effort to bring people together). He has to address the concerns of the people so that they don’t go to the BJP,” he said, adding that he does not view Scindia’s statement as “indiscipline”.
Asked about Nath’s dare, he said, “Both of them have decided to meet this week. All issues will be settled.”
However, Digvijaya Singh, while indirectly taking on Scindia, said the commitments made in the manifesto “are to be implemented over five years, not the first year itself”. He also maintained there was no factionalism in the party.
Scindia’s remarks at the Tikamgarh rally have put the party in a spot because though the promise of regularising guest teachers found a mention in its manifesto, the government hasn’t been unable to implement the measure owing to the state’s poor finances.
Senior Cabinet Minister Govind Singh, who is considered close to former CM Digvijaya Singh, had on Friday advised Scindia to talk to the CM and raise the issue at a party forum. Singh, who holds the General Administration Department portfolio, said the teachers had been appointed on a temporary basis and regularising their services would have huge financial implications.
Scindia, who lost the parliamentary elections from Guna-Shivpuri constituency, has taken on the Kamal Nath government in the past too. Many view his public assertions as part of the inner party tussle.
(With Milind Ghatwai in Bhopal)
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