Consensus may have eluded Madhya Pradesh Congress leaders in the past, but they have all gotten around to believing that this assembly election is a ‘now or never’ moment. Going by the numerous surveys, the gut feeling in the Congress camp is that it has locked the ruling BJP in a tight contest and could well be within striking distance of power. As campaigning drew to a close on November 26, the focus was on keeping the momentum and avoiding costly mistakes. Congress president Rahul Gandhi and state president Kamal Nath issued public appeals, reiterating the promises made by the party and seeking support.
Factionalism aside, analysts see the state Congress’s spirited electioneering as a far cry from its past campaigns. For one, the top leaders had their task cut out. Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, who was not at the forefront of the campaign, was engaged in behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to contain the damage by party rebels contesting the election. Digvijaya, who was instructed to ensure unity post-ticket distribution, managed to prevail on rebels like Nasir Islam and Sajid Ali in Bhopal Central, Sanjeev Saxena in Bhopal South and Mohammed Saood in Bhopal North. Another 35 rebels across the state, including from Indore, Prithvipur, Niwari, Hat Pipaliya, Neemuch, Badnawar and Shujalpur—stood down at Digvijaya’s behest.
Also, weeks ahead of the announcement of candidates, the party started allocating organisational posts to