A cabinet meeting in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday witnessed a heated exchange between Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Food Minister Pradyumna Singh Tomar, who is a loyalist of party general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia, exposing the bitter factionalism among the Congress' state unit.
During the meet, the argument began when school education minister Prabhuram Choudhary raised the issue of age relaxation in state public service commission exams. Mr Tomar, stood up in between, raised his voice and reportedly said to the chief minister, "You should also listen to us. Officers are being removed without my consent. It can't go on like this."
Taking exception to Mr Tomar, public health engineering minister Sukhdev Panse intervened and reportedly said such a tone against the chief minister would not be tolerated. He also asked Mr Tomar to sit down, which led to an altercation between the two.
When the chief minister tried to mediate, Mr Tomar started walking out but was stopped by the other minister of Jyotiraditya Scindia camp like Govind Singh Rajpur, Mahendra Singh Sisodia and Imarti Devi. They also said bureaucracy is hindering their performance and not supporting them.
At this point, Kamal Nath reportedly lost his cool and said he knew who was behind this confrontation. "You are all welcome to go. No one is stopping you", he reportedly said.
Taking a dig at the conflict, BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari said the ministers did not seem to realise it was a cabinet meet and not a party gathering. "We believe this government won't survive for long as factionalism is still prevalent in Congress," he said.
Meanwhile, sources say Kamal Nath may relieve Jyotiraditya Scindia supporters from important portfolios on the pretext of evaluating the six-month performance of his cabinet colleagues.
The factionalism in the Madhya Pradesh Congress unit has been an open secret for long. Last month, while Mr Nath - who is also the state Congress chief -- tried to hold a postmortem of the Lok Sabha elections at a meeting with the candidates, ministers close to Jyotiraditya Scindia claimed a young, energetic leader like him be given responsibility of the party. The 48-year-old son of the late Madhavrao Scindia, has lost the family seat of Guna this time.
While leaders of various factions had buried the hatchet temporarily ahead of the last year's assembly elections, problems surfaced soon after 72-year-old Kamal Nath was named the Chief Minister instead of Jyotiraditya Scindia.
The factionalism caused rifts in the government. Mayawati -- whose support is essential to maintain the government's wafer-thin majority -- become infuriated and talked of withdrawing it as her party's candidate for the Guna seat joined the Congress and declared support for Jyotiraditya Scindia. It was left to Kamal Nath to reason with Mayawati.
The troubles in the Congress camp benefited the BJP, which bounced back, winning 28 of the state's Lok Sabha 29 seats.