Digvijaya Singh, a two-time Chief Minister from Madhya Pradesh, issued a denial. (File photo)
The declaration of the first list of Congress candidates for Madhya Pradesh got scuttled mid-way today after two key leaders from the state, veteran politician Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia had a huge argument, sources said. The dispute — over the selection of candidates — was vehement and both leaders walked out of the party's war-room in Delhi, where the meeting was in progress, sources said. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has now appointed a three-member committee to resolve the issue.
Elections for 230 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh will be held on November 28. With less than a month to go, choice of candidates remains a crucial exercise. Delay and disruption at this stage, say leaders from the state, only works in the BJP's favour. The committee is now expected to meet tomorrow.
71-year-old Mr Singh, a two-time Chief Minister from the state, later issued a denial. He tweeted:
It is being wrongly reported in press that I and Jyotiraditya Scindhia ji had any arguement and Rahul ji had to intervene. All of us in MP Congress are one and determined to defeat the corrupt BJP Govt in MP.
– digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) November 1, 2018
The long-standing rivalry between Mr Scindia and Mr Singh — well-known to party insiders — has contributed to the factionalism within the party in Madhya Pradesh, where it has been out of power for 15 years.
Carrying everyone along was the challenge — which caused Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to take a long time to decide who would lead the party's campaign in the state ahead of the crucial election, where Congress believes it has a shot at power. The job went to Kamal Nath and both Mr Scindia and Mr Singh came out in his support after the announcement.
But selection of candidates, sources said, has disrupted the delicate balance. While the top leadership wanted the state Congress to come up with single names for all seats, there were accusations that 47-year-old Mr Scindia, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, was trying to get his supporters on the list, sources said.
Now party veterans Ashok Gehlot, Veerappa Moily and Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, have been tasked with resolving the issue.
With the Shivraj Singh Chouhan governing the state since 2003, the Congress is hoping to harness any possible anti-incumbency and a firing on farmers last year that left seven people dead to target Mr Chouhan. But its delay in naming its main leader and now the candidates, is seen as factors that would play into the hands of the BJP.