Special Report

Let MLAs pick CMs

Let MLAs pick CMs

Rahul Gandhi may not yet have acquired the power and status of Indira Gandhi. But his party men, so used to crawling when expected only to bend, cannot help being, well…Congressmen. Why we say this, especially when it is supposed to be the finest hour for the Congress boss? We have good reason to. The report that both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the newly-elected Congress MLAs are to leave the choice of the leader to Rahulji leads us to our conclusion.

That is, the ‘high command’ culture is still alive and kicking in the party, even if it has long lost its grip on the popular pulse. Death of internal democracy in the Congress was a direct outcome of the high command culture. Strong provincial leaders were humiliated in favour of the handpicked nominees of the coterie surrounding the party chief. Now, the question whether Sachin Pilot or Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, or Jyotiraditya Scindia or Kamal Nath in MP should head the respective State Congress Legislative Party should be left to the MLAs. And in no case to Rahulji. It is natural for them to be ambitious for becoming chief minister. The right way, nay, the democratic way is for the MLAs to elect the new leader through a secret ballot.

The stratagem that the Congress chief would arrive at a consensus after consulting each MLA personally before nominating the lucky winner leads to avoidable bitterness and dissidence. A transparent contest between rival contenders in the best democratic traditions not only reflects the free will of the MLAs but allows the winner and the loser(s) to reconcile their differences and accommodate one another. Of course, as things are, it is almost certain that Gehlot is set to be nominated for chief ministership in Rajasthan while in MP the chances of Nath seem to be greater. This is also because both Gehlot and Nath are seen to be able to manage the numbers game better. In both, Rajasthan and MP, the Congress was short of the half-way mark. Political skills of the unspoken kind are needed to bolster the CLPs and for this favour Gehlot and Nath are considered better operators than their challengers.

Meanwhile, Shivraj Singh Chouhan deserves praise for resigning instead of trying to cobble together a majority with a few footloose legislators. Given how fickle politicians’ loyalties are, the soft-spoken Chouhan made no effort to ‘manage’ six MLAs he needed to stake claim for government formation. Maybe he realizes he may not have to wait long, given the ways of the Congress Party and its reliance on independents and others for simple majority. It is one of those vagaries of the electoral system that though the BJP polled a slightly higher percentage of votes, it fell short of the Congress tally of MLAs. Despite running a good administration, greatly boosting farm output, improving rural infrastructure and urban areas, Chouhan paid a price for the police firing last year on agitating farmers in Mandasur, a region where the BJP suffered major losses.



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