The tense race for the top post finally reached its conclusion as the Congress declared the chief minister for Madhya Pradesh, which it had wrested from the BJP along with Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the recently concluded Assembly polls. Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Kamal Nath was announced as the head of the newly-elected Congress government in the state.
“Our best wishes to Shri @OfficeOfKNath for being elected CM of Madhya Pradesh. An era of change is upon MP with him at the helm,” the Congress Twitter handle wrote.
The announcement followed as senior Congress leaders huddled at Rahul Gandhi’s residence as the Congress was confronted with the challenge of an anticipated leadership tussle in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 13, 2018
Kamal Nath was chosen over Jyotiraditya Scindia, the other strong contender for the top post.
For Kamal Nath, appointment as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister is a reward for his sharp political maneuvering skills which are credited with the Congress victory in a state where BJP had been ruling for 15 years.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of Congress legislators in Bhopal, Kamal Nath said he would meet Governor Anandiben Patel at 10.30 am on Friday and the time of swearing-in would be decided then.
With Jyotiraditya Scindia by his side, the 72-year-old senior leader thanked him and said the state unit of the Congress was united, that and there were no “camps”. Nath also recalled his long association with the Gandhi family, starting with the late Indira Gandhi.
Asked about the Congress’s promise of farm loan waiver, he said, “It is a challenging time and we will all together fulfil the promises made in our ‘Vachan Patra’.”
According to recent reports, there will not be a deputy chief minister in Madhya Pradesh. Earlier, certain reports claimed that the other main contender Jyotiraditya Scindia could be given the deputy post.
Earlier, after his name was announced by the Congress, Nath said in a statement the post was a “milestone” for him. “On 13 December, Indira (GandhI) ji came to Chhindwara and introduced me to the people of the state.” He said he had always worked for the Congress “without any desire for a post”, adding he had worked with Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi.
Thanking Scindia, Nath said he had worked with the former’s father Madhavrao Scindia and was happy to have got his support.
“It’s a challenging task ahead. Together, we will fulfil the promises made in our manifesto,” he said.
Nath reached Bhopal late Thursday to a rousing welcome as his supporters chanted ‘Jai Jai Kamal Nath’. Nath and Scindia reached Indira Bhawan, the state Congress headquarters, and held a meeting of the party’s newly elected MLAs and conveyed the party high command’s decision.
Congress’s central observer for Madhya Pradesh A K Antony told the newly-elected MLAs that Nath’s name had been decided for the chief minister post. Scindia then proposed Nath’s name as the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader and it was approved “unanimously” by the MLAs.
The Congress decided to chose Nath after long meetings at Rahul Gandhi’s Tughlaq Lane residence in Delhi, which was attended by various senior leaders including Sonia Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was present too.
Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia apprised the party chief of their views.
It is believed that what was meant to be a done deal for the veterans, was stalled by their younger colleagues, Scindia and Pilot.
The meetings came a day after newly-elected Congress MLAs in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh passed unanimous resolutions authorising Rahul Gandhi to take a decision on who will lead the legislature party in the these states.
Appointed as president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee on April 26, Nath is credited with having steered the party to the win in the Assembly polls. The party bagged 114 seats, two short of majority in the 230-member House. However, with support of one SP MLA, two BSP MLAs and four Independents, the party secured the numbers and staked claim to form government. BJP, which was fighting anti-incumbency of 15 years under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, managed to get 109 seats.
Nath said the party had got “unconditional” support from the SP and the BSP.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had in a ‘democratic’ audio poll, asked the party workers to mention their top choice for the chief minister post in each of the three states that the party won.
Using an internal messaging platform, Gandhi sent out a pre-recorded audio message seeking the feedback of 2.3 lakh party workers for selection of the chief minister in their respective states.
The Congress had not named any candidate for the chief minister’s post in any state. With more than one name doing the rounds for each of the three states where the Congress has secured numbers to form the government, Rahul Gandhi said in his message that the party workers’ choice would reach him directly and would not be known to anyone else.
That Congress may choose Nath as the CM of Madhya Pradesh had been speculated for some time. A section of the people was against his appointment because of Kamal Nath’s alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Akali Dal leader and Delhi MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa said on Thursday Sikhs would hold nation-wide protests if Nath became the CM of Madhya Pradesh.
“Warning Rahul Gandhi of Sikhs’ anger if he followed his family’s tradition of rewarding butchers of 1984 Sikh genocide,” Sirsa told reporters.
He said “Sikhs have been patient enough” and Gandhi should not instigate them with a decision like making Kamal Nath the Chief Minister.
“We will ensure that Kamal Nath gets the punishment for his misdeeds. The Congress may control the judiciary or the CBI, but it will not be able to protect the culprits,” said Sirsa.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Tejinderpal Singh Bagga said he would sit on hunger strike from the day Kamal Nath would be sworn in.