The run-up to the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh is witnessing a string of leaders leaving the ruling BJP, with some of them joining the Congress. Many of the exits have been from the Gwalior-Chambal region, the home turf of several powerful BJP leaders, including Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Singh Tomar.
Two key leaders have left the BJP in as many days this week. Both leaders have, directly or indirectly, blamed loyalists of Mr Scindia. The Union Minister responded by saying that people come and go during elections and, in a democracy, everyone has the right to make their own decisions.
Two-time former MLA Girija Shankar Sharma, whose family has been associated with the BJP for decades, quit the party on Friday. Between him and his brother, Sitasaran Sharma, the family has won the Hoshangabad Assembly seat, which was earlier known as Itarsi, seven straight times since 1990.
Accusing the BJP of ignoring veteran leaders and workers after new leaders joined the party, Mr Sharma said he would ensure that BJP candidates don’t win from the seat, as the “return of the present government isn’t in the state’s larger interest”.
Mr Sharma’s resignation came a day after sitting MLA from Kolaras seat of Shivpuri district, Virendra Raghuvanshi, quit the BJP, accusing leaders and ministers close to Mr Scindia of corruption as well as “torture” of people who have been with the party for a long time. Mr Raghuvanshi is likely to join the Congress in Bhopal on Saturday.
Virendra Raghuvanshi was with the Congress when he was elected as an MLA for the first time in 2003. He joined the BJP in 2013 and was elected from Kolaras in 2018. He was also a member of the party’s state executive.
Addressing reporters on Thursday, Mr Raghuvanshi had said, “Only god knows what pressure Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in that he is unable to act against continued harassment and torture of old BJP workers and leaders by Team Scindia.”
“I don’t know why I’m being harassed and tortured within the BJP since Mr Scindia arrived with his loyalists three-and-a-half years ago. It is possibly happening because I worked for Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya and KP Yadav (both known to be part of the anti-Scindia camp in BJP) in the previous elections,” he added.
Jyotiraditya Scindia – who had joined the BJP with 22 MLAs in 2020, leading to the collapse of the Kamal Nath-led Congress government – responded to the resignations by saying that people come and go during elections.
“In a democracy, everyone has the right to make their own decision. In 2020, the Congress government had made a promise against the farmers and young women. There was corruption in the 15-month government and six cabinet ministers resigned from the government at the same time. But, today, we are seeing that resignations are tendered two to four months before the elections,” Mr Scindia said.
Though Mr Raghuvanshi didn’t make his future plans clear, people close to him said he might return to the Congress with an aim of contesting the assembly polls from Shivpuri seat against four-time BJP MLA and minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia.
According to sources, two BJP MLAs from the Vindhya region and one each from the Mahakaushal and Bundelkhand regions have kept their resignations ready.
Former chief minister Kamal Nath said, “Many leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party are in touch with me. Be it Scindia supporters or other leaders of the BJP, they will get entry into the Congress only if our local organisation agrees. Even Samandar Patel (Scindia loyalist who joined the Congress last month) came only with the consent of the local leaders.”
In the past 3 months, several BJP leaders have quit the party and joined the Congress. These include former minister Deepak Joshi, who is the son of former chief minister Kailash Joshi, former MLA Radhelal Baghel, former MLA Kunwar Dhruv Pratap Singh, Yadvendra Singh – son of former MLA Deshraj Singh – and Samandar Singh Patel.
In April, former BJP MP from Khargone seat of west MP, Makhansingh Solanki, had resigned from the BJP and joined the Congress. His nephew, Sumer Singh Solanki, is a BJP Rajya Sabha MP.