Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia's big revolt with at least 21 MLAs in tow that has made the collapse of the Kamal Nath government all but certain has triggered rumblings inside the party - the latest instalment of tumult in the 135-year-old outfit wracked by a leadership crisis at the top.
Some members in the party say the optics of not reaching out to the 49-year-old, known to be a close confidante of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for years, does not bode well for it. The Gandhi family, which governs the party, should have made a last ditch effort to stop him, sources in party said requesting not to be named.
"They should have rushed to his residence and tried to meet him even though he claimed to have swine flu," one leader said.
Jyotiraditya Scindia was promptly expelled for "anti-party" activities minutes after the upset party leader shared his letter of resignation to Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Twitter. He is likely to join the BJP.
Senior party leader Kuldeep Bishnoi tweeted:
.@JM_Scindia's departure is a big blow to @INCIndia. He was a central pillar in the party & the leadership should've done more to convince him to stay. Like him, there are many other devoted INC leaders across the country who feel alienated, wasted & discontented. 1/2 https://t.co/oTLXuqTAui— Kuldeep Bishnoi (@bishnoikuldeep) March 10, 2020
2/2 India's oldest party needs to empower young leaders who have the capacity to work hard & resonate with the masses.— Kuldeep Bishnoi (@bishnoikuldeep) March 10, 2020
Mr Scindia, who made it clear that he expected to be rewarded for his work in the party's victory in the 2018 assembly election, was passed over for the Chief Minister's post and the top job in the party's state unit. He was given two jobs he was not seen to be keen on – the charge of western Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Lok Sabha election and the screening committee of the Maharashtra election.
Lately, the party hinted that his wish for a safe Rajya Sabha seat may not be granted – an issue that's seen as a trigger for his move to the BJP. Along with him, his 21 loyalists resigned – pushing the Kamal Nath government on the brink of collapse.
Some senior Congress hands close to Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot, who has a history of friction with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, also said that the party veteran should have been more magnanimous than attack Mr Scindia.
Saying he betrayed the "trust of the people and the ideology" Mr Gehlot took little time to dub him as a leader with "self-indulgent political ambitions". In Mr Pilot, the Rajasthan Chief Minister too has had to contend with a younger, ambitious leader signalling that his role to play in the party's victory deserves a big reward.
But the leaders close to Mr Pilot say there is no threat to the Ashok Gehlot government despite BJP attempts because they would need to turn far more MLAs than in Madhya Pradesh to topple the Congress administration.
They also argue that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah do not want Vasundhara Raje Scindia back as Chief Minister.
"There may not be an immediate threat in Rajasthan but yes it is difficult days for the Congress party," a leader said.
Outside the party, former Congress veteran Natwar Singh echoed the sentiment of dissidents within it. "The Congress leadership should have tried to stop Jyotiraditya Scindia. How can you ignore a leader with the support of 20 MLAs? Scindia was wandered for 15 months. If I was a Congress leader, I would have called and tried to stop him," he told NDTV.
The latest crisis in the Congress comes amid growing voices in the party over its failure to find a new president after Rahul Gandhi's resignation following the national election debacle last year that thrust his mother Sonia Gandhi back into the hot seat as interim chief.