Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Congress legislator Jitu Patwari’s boycott of the governor’s address in the state assembly on Monday is his way of expressing his displeasure against MP Congress chief and leader of opposition, Kamal Nath’s projection of Sonkatch MLA, Sajjan Verma, as the second line leader in the state. The differences between Patwari and Kamal Nath came out in open on Monday when Kamal Nath termed Patwari’s boycott as “inappropriate”. However, on Tuesday Patwari met Kamal Nath in an apparent bid to douse the political fire. Congress leaders said Kamal Nath on Sunday chaired a meeting of party MLAs and Patwari didn’t attend the meeting. A senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named, said Patwari was disenchanted as Kamal Nath is seen to be promoting Sajjan Verma as the second-line leader in the state. “Patwari, who was earlier eyeing on the post of MP Congress Committee president, is feeling sidelined, and to show his presence in state politics, he announced boycott of the governor’s speech on Twitter,” the Congress leader said. Party leaders said that Kamal Nath, who is working on organisational restructuring from booth to top, didn’t give any responsibility to Patwari. “Recently in a party meeting, Kamal Nath praised Sajjan Verma and said the party needs leaders like Verma, who has a clean image and strong opinion against the wrong policies of the BJP government. This statement of Kamal Nath was a clear message for leaders who are projecting themselves as second-line leaders of the party. This might have upset Patwari,” said another party leader. A Dalit leader, one-time Member of Parliament (MP) and two-time MLA, Sajjan Verma, 69, is known as “very close” to Kamal Nath because of his “disciplined behaviour.” However, two-time MLA, Jitu Patwari, 49, gained popularity during the farmer agitation in Malwa region in 2017. He was the one who rode then Congress president Rahul Gandhi on a bike defying a ban imposed the state government on entry of politicians in Mandsaur, where 6 farmers were killed in an alleged police firing. Later, the Congress came to power in 2018 and Patwari was made miner for public relation, sports and higher education department. After Monday’s controversy, Patwari tried to do some damage control and met Kamal Nath for over half an hour on Tuesday. Talking to HT, Patwari said, “Kamal Nath is an idol for me and I am nothing compared to him. It was my personal decision to boycott the governor’s address. At least 13 times political parties and politicians have boycotted the address of the governor to reger their protest for ongoing problems of common people.” However, Patwari didn’t say anything about why he didn’t attend the meeting of the Congress MLAs on Sunday. When asked about Sajjan Verma, he said, “Sajjanji is a respected leader of the party and I am not competing with anyone.” Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja said, “There is no fight for the second line of leadership in the party. All leaders are working under Kamal Nath. Jitu Patwari realised his make and explained his stand to Kamal Nath.” However, BJP leaders said this is just a start and factionalism will increase further in the Congress due to weak leadership. Transport miner Govind Singh Rajput, who joined the BJP in March 2020 along with 22 legislators from the Congress, said, “The Congress is losing the identity due to factionalism. Kamal Nath’s biased behaviour with other party leaders is creating trouble for many leaders. Patwari is not an exception. Earlier, Arun Yadav also gave a similar statement that his voice is not being heard the top leadership when Nath welcomed a leader of Hindu Mahasabha in the party. Due to this, 27 MLAs left the party and joined a disciplined party i.e BJP.” Senior journal Deepak Tiwari, who wrote two books on the politics of MP, said, “Kamal Nath reposed tremendous faith in Jitu Patwari but he failed. He failed to establish himself as a leader. Now, Patwari is trying to draw his own line to prove himself as a second-line top leader but this is going against him.”
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She is a senior reporter based at Bhopal. She covers higher education, social issues, youth affairs, woman and child development related issues, sports and business & industries.