There has been a growing clamour within the Congress party, particularly its Madhya Pradesh unit, to nominate senior party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh. The state has 11 Rajya Sabha seats and three seats are falling vacant in April this year. While one is currently held by Congress’s Digvijaya Singh, the remaining two are represented by BJP’s Prabhat Jha and Satyanarayan Jatia.
With the BJP displaced from power, the Congress is set to win two of these three seats given on account of the increased number of members in the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly following its victory in the Assembly elections in 2018. The BJP, on the other hand, will manage to retain one of the two seats it currently holds.
As the Rajya Sabha tenure of the incumbent members draws to be close, a war appears to be brewing between the several factions of the state unit of the Congress party. That former central minister and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia and Chief Minister Kamal Nath do not see eye to eye is no secret, the past few days have seen the hostilities increase — an indication that leaders have already begun to flex their muscles for the coveted berth in parliament.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, a lead contender for the Rajya Sabha seat, has been increasingly vocal of his opposition to the state leadership, even promising an agitation if the Kamal Nath government did not fulfil the promises made in the party’s manifesto ahead of the Assembly elections. Scindia had lost the Lok Sabha elections last year from his family bastion of Guna to an ex-Congress worker who entered the fray on a BJP ticket. With a war of words escalating between Scindia and Nath, the sudden emergence of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s name as the Congress’s popular choice took many by surprise.
Priyanka joined active politics ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in 2017. She was appointed as the party’s general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh and has been working to strengthen the party’s cadre in the region since then. She made herself sparsely available for the party’s campaigns in Assembly elections in Jharkhand as well as in Delhi, making it evident that she has her eyes set on the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. So, will Priyanka, who has made Uttar Pradesh her battleground since the 2019 general elections, choose to enter Parliament from a state that is not her ‘karmbhoomi’? The answer to this question may appear less confounding if one looks at the developments from a different perspective.
Multiple reports, particularly from the local media, suggest that Priyanka will not accept her nomination from Madhya Pradesh as she wants to engage herself in Uttar Pradesh, which is the biggest state in terms of seats. The UP Legislative Assembly has 404 seats and sends 31 members to the Rajya Sabha. In Uttar Pradesh, 10 seats are falling vacant this November. The BJP is likely to retain most of the 10 seats as it has a brute majority in the Assembly.
Now, the clamour around Priyanka’s nomination to the Upper House comes in the backdrop of the ongoing rift between Scindia and Chief Minister Kamal Nath in the state over fulfilling promises made in the manifesto. Also, a number of Congress leaders besides Scindia are also said to be in the fray for a Rajya Sabha berth following party’s poor show in the Lok Sabha elections in May 2019. Top Congress leaders like Motilal Vihra, Madhusudan Mistry, Kumari Selja, BK Hariprasad, and MV Rajeev Gowda are among others whose tenures are ending in April and June.
While, Vora, Selja and Digvijaya Singh are likely to be renominated by the party, leaders like Scindia appear to have resorted to pressure tactics, apparently for leaders to consider their name for the Upper House. Digvijaya, who is considered close to the Gandhi family and led the Congress governments in MP for 10 years, is said to be working behind the curtains to create roadblocks for Scindia, media reports said.
The sudden appearance of Priyanka’s name in the fray for the Rajya Sabha berth, thus, appears to be a clearly thought tactic to send a blunt message to Scindia that he is being sidelined by the party.