ndsharma's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Kamal Nath

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in jitters. The cause of his distress is not the opposition Congress, which is yet to put its house in order, but his own party’s leadership. First, the appointment of Anandiben Patel as Governor. From the day one, she started acting like an additional Chief Minister, visiting places, attending functions, interacting with people, calling reports from bureaucrats and, at least on one occasion, she even told the bureaucrats what to do to ensure votes for the BJP, forgetting that she was holding a Constitutional position and was not an errand lady of Amit Shah. All along, Anandiben has been keeping Chouhan aside.

Then came a bigger shock to Chouhan when Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan was replaced by Rakesh Singh as the State BJP president. Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan was to Shivraj Singh Chouhan what jesters used to be to nawabs in the mediaeval India. Rakesh Singh is a low profile Member of Lok Sabha from Jabalpur. That he was never known to be confidant of Chouhan is one thing. What is more, BJP president Amit Shah flew to Bhopal for a couple of hours in the midst of his do or die election campaign in Karnataka just to introduce Rakesh Singh to senior party functionaries who were summoned from across the State for this special occasion. If Chouhan still had a flicker of hope in his heart, it was mercilessly shattered by Shah by announcing that the party would contest the Assembly elections later this year under collective leadership which was interpreted to mean that Chouhan may not be the chief ministerial candidate.

In the light of these unsavoury developments for Chouhan, it is anybody’s guess if it was a Freudian slip or an expression of his dying hope that at an official function he indicated towards the chair kept for him and remarked that the Chief Minister’s chair was vacant, anyone could sit on it. Later on he did say that he had made the remark in jest but that explanation was irrelevant. The newly nominated PCC chief Kamal Nath was quick to interpret that the reality was slowly dawning on Chouhan that the BJP would be routed out in MP (in the forthcoming elections).

It is being argued in BJP circles that the party leadership is planning to keep Chouhan on the sides and deny ticket to a large number of ministers and MLAs with a view to countering the incumbency of the 15-year BJP rule. Another theory, which looks bizarre by its nature, being discussed is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may hold the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh not later this year when these are due but hold them along with Lok Sabha elections in May next year, so that there is greater focus on Lok Sabha elections which the BJP hopes to win because of Modi’s oratorical skills. Elections to an Assembly have to be held within a stipulated period from the day the term of the present Assembly expires and there is no precedence of the President’s Rule in a State after the term of the Assembly has ended. But the BJP circles feel that Modi may find a way out.

The State Congress leaders are, on the other hand, euphoric as they have started seeing the end of the 15-year rule of the BJP. PCC chief Kamal Nath is said to be planning a two-pronged strategy to make the Congress formidable enough to take on the BJP. For one, he plans to ask party leaders to submit panels out of which to pick up a specified number of names for inclusion in the PCC working committee so that there is a wide representation in the State party’s decision making body. Secondly, the only criterion for giving party ticket to a person will be his/her winning chances and the candidates will thus be selected after a strict scrutiny. Sounds good. The problem comes when implementing such ideas. The Congress in Madhya Pradesh has a long history of sordid factionalism. 


Septuagenarian Kamal Nath is close to fulfilling his long-cherished ambition of becoming Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. At least so think his fans and supporters of whom there are many – and not only in politics. On the occasion of his son’s marriage in the 1990s, I went to the telegraph office in Bhopal to send a telegram of good wishes. I picked up a phrase from the list of standard greetings phrases (then in vogue) and wrote the address ‘Kamal Nath, Chhindwara’. The clerk read the telegram a few times, looked at me and said hesitantly: ‘Sir, Kamal Nathji ke naam ke aage Shri likh dijiye. Bahut bade Aadmi hain. Paisa utna hi lagega.’ (Sir, you can write Shri before Kamal Nathji’s name. he is a big person. The charge for the telegram will be the same). During the 2008 Assembly elections a British journalist touring Madhya Pradesh to cover the elections for his news agency asked me if Kamal Nath had a chance of becoming the Chief Minister. He remarked that (then Union Commerce Minister) Kamal Nath had made many admirers in Geneva (in the course of his WTO interactions) and they all felt that he deserved to become the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.

Lok Sabha member from Guna Jyotiraditya Scindia was considered the front-runner in the race for being declared chief ministerial candidate till about a month back when the Congress high command nominated Kamal Nath as the PCC president in place of Arun Yadav towards the end of last month. AICC general secretary and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who had acquired a new aura after  completing (in six months) the 3,300-km Narmada parikrama, was said to have convinced the high command that he would ensure Congress victory in the Assembly elections, due later this year, if Kamal Nath was made the PCC chief. Scindia was simultaneously appointed chairman of the campaign committee. It is not a secret that Digvijaya Singh does not like Jyotiraditya Scindia nor did he like his late father Madhavrao Scindia.

Kamal Nath’s ambition to occupy the Chief Minister’s chair in Madhya Pradesh goes back to 1980 when he had staked his claim along with Arjun Singh and Shivbhan Singh Solanki, a tribal leader from Jhabua. When the views of the party MLAs were ascertained, Solanki was the choice of the highest number of MLAs while Kamal Nath stood third. The AICC observers, deputed to conduct the election of the legislature party leader, contacted Sanjay Gandhi who was ruling the roost at the time. Gandhi’s choice was Arjun Singh. Kamal Nath, a Sanjay buff, then declared that his votes be added to Arjun Singh’s votes which became more than Solanki and Arjun Singh thus became the Chief Minister.

During the decade Digvijaya Singh was the Chief Minister, Kamal Nath told reporters a few times that he would soon replace Digvijaya Singh. The latter always retorted: ‘he is welcome but where are the MLAs with him.’ Once he called me up from Delhi and said that 55 MLAs had pledged their support to him. Asked about the names, at least of a dozen or so, he prevaricated. A week later he, however, got the story published from Delhi in a prominent paper. Every time the Assembly elections are near, he would descend on Bhopal with the hope (without declaring it openly) that he would somehow manage the Chief Minister’s position if the Congress got the majority. This time, though, he must be feeling a lot of confidence with his position as the PCC chief and Digvijaya Singh’s assurance to make him the Chief Minister.

A restless soul

Kamal Nath feels restless when without any position. Having taken the basic training of politics from the late Sanjay Gandhi (in the Youth Congress), he contested his first Lok Sabha election from Chhindwara in 1980 and he has since been keeping his lien on the constituency. He was denied the ticket in 1996 because of the Havana allegations. But he did not leave the Congress as Madhavrao Scindia had done. So he persuaded the party leadership to nominate his wife Alka Nath in his place. She had won with an impressive margin. However, Kamal Nath became restless within a few months and made Alka Nath resign so that he could himself contest. The word spread at the time was that Alka Nath was not feeling comfortable as a Member of Parliament.  The BJP, which had put forward former Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa against Kamal Nath in the by-election, gave a twist to the Kamal Nath-Alka Nath relationship and also exploited the confiscation of certain objects by the Customs from Kamal Nath’s luggage on his return from abroad. Few could match Sunderlal Patwa in slander mongering; the former BJP Chief Minister had turned it into a fine art.

Then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, whom Kamal Nath had invited for campaigning for him, unwittingly helped the BJP cause. He was chatting with some journalists in a relaxed mood. Asked what he thought was the solution to the Kashmir problem, he said that he “personally” felt that the only solution to the problem was that India and Pakistan should be allowed to keep parts of Jammu and Kashmir now under their control and the line of control should be declared international border. What more did the BJP want? Kamal Nath lost to Patwa. That was the only time when the constituency went out of the Congress hands. Kamal Nath took his revenge on Patwa a year later, in 1998, winning the seat with over 58 per cent of the polled votes. He has since been representing Chhindwara in Lok Sabha continuously. 

September 2018
« Aug    

Twitter Updates


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 47 other followers

Share this blog


Blog Stats

  • 152,489 hits
%d bloggers like this: