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Monday, Dec 05, 2022

Defections leaving it bleeding, MP Congress sets in place district observers to fill gaps

Prabharis, seh-prabharis to function independently from district presidents, belong to different caste

kamal nath, congressSenior Congress Leader Kamal Nath (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

After losing several key seats in this year’s local polls due to defections and factionalism, the state Congress seems to be taking precautions ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections. In the 52 districts in the state, it has decided to appoint independent observers – prabharis and seh-prabharis – who will not contest elections but work to strengthen their respective district units. Sources said care will be taken to ensure that they are from a caste different than of the party’s district president.

Addressing the newly appointed observers at the party office in Bhopal last week, state Congress president Kamal Nath called the next 13 months an “Agnipariksha” and urged workers to hit the ground running.

“Recent local body results were encouraging, even though the BJP misused government machinery and spent a huge amount of money to win elections. We won Raigaon after 31 years and Damoh after two decades owing to its strong organisation. We should highlight the failures of the Modi-Shivraj Chouhan government who failed to deliver their countless promises, including jobs for the youth and doubling farmer incomes. They are now manipulating the voters in the name of nationalism,” Nath said.

Since 2020, when former party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s camp revolted and led to the Nath-led government’s fall, the state Congress has seen defection of over 30 MLAs. In this year’s presidential polls, 12 MLAs cross-voted. Several local leaders also shifted allegiances during the civic polls in July, making the party lose control of cadres in entire districts. The Congress had to let go of key seats – Rewa, Chhatarpur and Barwani – due to this reason.

In the local body polls, which Nath termed “the semi-final of the 2023 Assembly elections”, the Congress managed to get nine of its candidates elected as district panchayat heads and won five out of the 16 mayoral seats. Of the 6,507 councillor seats across 347 local bodies, the Congress obtained 1,932. The BJP got 3,468 seats.

“The district president is often under complete control of the leader of that district or the sitting MLA. When the MLA defects, the entire district unit is wiped out. In the Gwalior-Chambal region, the Congress’s organisation was defunct after Scindia defected to the BJP with his supporters,” a Congress leader told The Indian Express.

Nath will now have direct access to the prabharis and seh-prabharis and will help mitigate the situation in case of any defection.

Despite wins in some cases in the local polls, leaders let the seats go by acting against party lines.

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The Congress won 13 of the 26 wards in the Dhanpuri Municipal Council of the Shahdol district but could not get their chairperson elected. The party’s district president, Azad Bahadur Singh, did not nominate a candidate to support his cousin who is the district’s BJP president. The BJP, which secured only nine wards, went on to win unopposed.

Congress leaders said the new appointments were Kamal Nath’s way of “supervising the district chiefs who might have allegiances to various factions of the Congress and might end up working for their own benefit.”

A Congress leader said, “It is not easy to remove a district chief from a post. It creates more trouble…Therefore these prabharis have been appointed to monitor each district”.

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Abbas Hafiz, Vice president of the state Congress’s media cell, said, “With Assembly elections merely 13 months away, the appointment of observers would be to strengthen the organisation and ensure resolution of all sorts of disputes with direct access to Kamal Nath. They will be executing the party’s strategy on the ground with effectively coordination with all units.”

First published on: 02-09-2022 at 10:52:39 am
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