With Kamal Nath resigning as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the feeble crisis management efforts of the Congress high command have come under the spotlight. Many party leaders point out that there was a lack of visible and aggressive effort and intervention on the part of the top leadership to save the Congress government.
The party leadership, sources said, left the heavylifting to Nath and Digvijaya Singh. This, they argued, was not a wise move as the two leaders were on one side of the factional feud and letting them handle the matter only alienated the other faction more. The Congress high command did send two observers — former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat and AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik — but that was clearly not enough.
Once Wasnik was back in Delhi because of personal reasons, the party rushed former Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to Bhopal. “The central leadership perhaps thought that we have two ‘diggaj’ (tall) leaders there and they will manage. I am not aware of any meeting held in Delhi to manage the crisis,” a senior leader told The Indian Express when asked why top leaders and crisis managers like Ghulam Nabi Azad, A K Antony or Ahmed Patel were not sent to Bhopal and whether there was any meeting in Delhi to find a solution.
In July last year, when the JD(S)-Congress coalition government came under crisis in almost similar circumstances, Azad and B K Hariprasad were rushed to Bengaluru. The Congress had rushed Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath, C P Joshi and Mukul Wasnik to Shillong in March 2018 to cobble up a coalition when the Assembly elections in Meghalaya threw up a fractured verdict.
Similarly, the top leadership of the Congress was directly involved in talks with the Shiv Sena and the NCP for formation of a government in Maharashtra. In fact, Patel had gone to Mumbai along with AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and Mallikarjun Kharge, AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra.
That involvement and aggression was missing in Bhopal. The AICC in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Deepak Babaria, seen as a lightweight and a novice when it comes to such crisis management, was in and out of Bhopal. He is in self-isolation in Ahmedabad now after he complained of fever, cough and sore throat.
Sources said the AICC did make efforts to reach out to the rebel MLAs. Babaria, sources said, tried to reach them over phone, via their relatives and through other channels.
“Why would the rebels believe the Congress when we did not show seriousness? Had any of the top leaders with a mandate from Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi flew into Bengaluru, perhaps they would have met him…why would they meet Digvijaya Singh who they see as a part of the problem,” a senior party leader said.
While Singh and party leader Jitu Patwari travelled to Bengaluru, many Congress leaders said their visit was an attempt to play to the gallery. The statements of Nath and Singh were aimed at only sending a political signal that the BJP was destabilising an elected government.
“Of course, the BJP sensed a chance. But the crisis originated from within the Congress. Had the leadership taken matters into its hands, sent a senior leader with the mandate, perhaps the situation could have been salvaged,” said a senior party leader said.
When contacted, Babaria said the Congress high command left no stone unturned to salvage the government, but declined to divulge the steps taken by the top leadership.
“I cannot tell all that to the media, but we did try our best,” he said.
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