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Posts Tagged ‘Madhavrao Scindia

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. 

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Though there is no word from the Congress High Command as yet, the buzz in Madhya Pradesh is that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be the party’s face in next year’s Assembly elections. Member of Lok Sabha from Guna constituency, Scindia has increased his visits to the State. In the aftermath of the police firing on farmers in Mandsaur district in early June, Scindia held a three-day Satyagraha in Bhopal. Most of the State party leaders, including AICC General Secretary and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, attended it. Later Scindia held a one-day demonstration at Khalghat in Khargone district on the farmers’ issue. Veteran Congress leader Kamal Nath, who did not come to Bhopal, attended it there. Scindia has since held several programmes in the State to highlight the travails of the people in the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, with main emphasis on the plight of the farmers in the State.

Appearances apart, the disquiet among Congress chieftains of the State at the emergence of Scindia as the possible chief ministerial candidate is much too palpable. Some time back, Kamal Nath had started attacking the Chouhan government with unusual regularity following media reports that he was soon going to be named as the PCC chief in place of Arun Yadav and was going to be the chief ministerial candidate. After Scindia’s name started doing the rounds, Kamal Nath’s belligerency has waned. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh is not seen in the current (monsoon) session of the Assembly in the same ebullient form which he displayed the last time as the Leader of Opposition. He was himself aspiring to lead the party in the elections.

Digvijaya Singh is a case apart. Once he had seen in Ajay Singh the next Chief Minister. At another time at a party function at Chhindwara, he had favoured Kamal Nath. Chhindwara is Kamal Nath’s Lok Sabha constituency. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that he does not like Scindia, nor, for that matter, did he like Scindia’s father, late Madhavrao Scindia. In fact, the only Scindia he liked was Madhavrao’s late mother Vijayaraje Scindia. Vijayaraje, one of the seniormost BJP leaders, fully reciprocated Digvijaya Singh’s sentiments and often praised the Congress leader publicly, to utter chagrin of the late BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa.

At the farmers’ rally organised by Jyotiraditya in Lahar in Bhind district early this month, Digvijaya Singh left the party workers aghast when towards the close of his speech, he looked at Scindia and said: ‘go and fight BJP and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, NOT ME.’

Digvijaya Singh has reiterated that he is not interested in Madhya Pradesh politics. He will now undertake spiritual parikrama of river Narmada from October 1. It may take several months to go round the river on foot.

Interestingly, Rubina Sharma Singh, wife of Digvijaya Singh’s younger brother Lakshman Singh, has pleaded for Scindia. In a Facebook post she says: ‘Jyotiraditya Scindia is making a great effort to resurrect the Congress Party here in Madhya Pradesh. Now, the rest of the Party leaders need to genuinely support him and stop this ego tussle they have with him.’ A similar appeal was made by Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh (who is Congress MLA) at Scindia’s Bhopal Satyagraha in early June.

The BJP leaders, too, have concentrated their attacks on Scindia. To which level they can go to malign Scindia is shown by an incident. A trauma centre was to be inaugurated by Scindia in Ashoknagar in his Lok Sabha constituency where local BJP MLA Gopinath Jatav, a Dalit, was also invited. Jatav, however, pre-empted it and inaugurated it a day earlier. Congress leader and Scindia’s representative Amit Tavre promptly issued a statement that the trauma centre had been contaminated by the touch of a Dalit and would be washed with gangajal. The Congress leaders were stunned by this unauthorised statement. District Congress Committee president Gajram Singh Yadav promptly expelled Tavre from the party for six years. Scindia removed him from the responsibilities of his representative.

BJP leaders denounced Scindia’s feudal attitude and his prejudice against Dalits. On a directive from State BJP president Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan, the BJP workers burnt effigies of Scindia at district headquarters all over the State on July 24.  


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Outright Perilous!

An egoist as the head of the government is bad enough. An egotist is a nuisance as his constant chant of I…, I…., I….. jars on the listeners’ years. But when he loses touch with the reality and starts believing his imaginary achievements to be his real achievements, that’s outright perilous.

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