Rahul Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Mandsaur | @IYC/Twitter
Rahul Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Mandsaur | @IYC/Twitter
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At Mandsaur, Congress president meets families of farmers killed in last year’s police firing; party leaders share stage in show of unity.

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi kicked off his party’s election campaign in Madhya Pradesh Wednesday, from Mandsaur, the site of a farmer unrest, with a clear message: Ground connect a must, if you want to be in government.Gandhi’s speech was seemingly aimed at Congress leaders in the state who have a reputation of being high-fliers with little support on the ground.

“Only those who connect with people on the ground will find a place in the next Congress government in Madhya Pradesh,” he said.

The Kisan Samridhi Sankalp rally was held at Piplamandi in Mandsaur, where five farmers were killed in police firing on this day last year. The farmers then were demanding a loan waiver and better prices for their crops.

Before addressing the rally, Gandhi paid tribute to the farmers who died and met their families.

“Go and tell the people of Madhya Pradesh how this government has done injustice to farmers, youth and all sections of society,” he told his party workers.

This was Gandhi’s first visit to Madhya Pradesh since taking over as party president in December last year.

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United face

The biggest problem for the Congress in the poll-bound state is the infighting among its leaders. Wednesday, however, saw all top party leaders share stage with Rahul Gandhi, in a purported show of unity.

The Congress president alluded to this in his speech. “As you can see all the leaders of the party are working as a team and they are determined to defeat the BJP in Madhya Pradesh,” he said.

He also sent a message to his party workers.

“For me, first come the people of this country, then come you the party workers and then come Congress leaders,” he said.

Senior state Congress leaders are aware that Gandhi is worried by the infighting and have made attempts to put up a united front.

On 3 June, Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath, along with other senior leaders from the state, visited the Election Commission in Delhi over the issue of alleged fake voters in MP electoral lists. The senior leaders such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh, Suresh Pachauri, and Ajay Singh later addressed a press conference together at the Congress headquarters in Delhi.

Disjointed unit

As senior leaders attempt to overcome their differences, the infighting appears to have spread to the lower rungs of the party.

Just a few days ago, the Mandsaur district Congress vice president, Mahendra Singh Gurjar, resigned over the appointment of Rajendra Singh Gautam in the state co-ordination committee headed by Digvijaya Singh.

Gurjar is considered close to former Mandsaur MP Meenakshi Natarajan, whom Gautam had contested against in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. He was later expelled from the party only to be reinstated in May last year. He was named to the co-ordination committee in April this year after Kamal Nath’s appointment as MP president.

Apart from Gurjar, Hardeep Singh Dang, the Congress MLA from Suvasara, has also resigned as a delegate of the MP Congress Committee, demanding that Natarajan be made part of the party’s decision-making process. Dang is the lone Congress MLA in the Mandsaur-Neemuch region.

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