Today, Kamal Nath, 72, stands out among the many loyalists of Nehru-Gandhi family who spent most of their lives in Delhi and stood by the Parivar in the most difficult of times.
“I don’t want you to vote for Congress leader Kamal Nath, I want you to vote for my third son Kamal Nath,” these were the words of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she fielded Kamal Nath from Chhindwara in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections.
Today, Kamal Nath, 72, stands out among the many loyalists of Nehru-Gandhi family who spent most of their lives in Delhi and stood by the Parivar in the most difficult of times. Set to become Madhya Pradesh’s chief minister, Nath is arguably the only top confindante of the Gandhi family who is still in active politics. Nath’s strong ties can be judged by the fact that he served three generations of the family, starting his career in the Indira Gandhi era, continuing in Rajiv Gandhi’s regime, to serving the current heir, Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress on Thursday night named veteran party leader as next chief minister after hours of hectic parleys held by the party chief Rahul Gandhi with senior party leaders in the national capital amid a debate on the old versus the new guard. Moreover, Scindia proposed Nath’s name as the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader and it was approved “unanimously” by the MLAs.
Nath, who has earlier held multiple portfolios in the union cabinet, recalled his association with the former prime minister Indira Gandhi and said it was she who had introduced him to Chhindwara, which has since become his home turf electing him to Lok Sabha nine times.
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 13, 2018
Nath’s popularity can be judged with the fact that Indira Gandhi had once described him as his third son who helped her take on the Morarji Desai-led regime in 1979. Nath remains a favourite even 39 years later. This year, the senior-most member in the 16th Lok Sabha and a nine-time MP from Chhindwara was chosen by Indira Gandhi’s grandson and Congress president Rahul Gandhi to anchor the attack against the Bharatiya Janata Party in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh
Termed as ‘Darbari’ and ‘Delhi politician’, many doubted Nath’s ability to connect with the grassroot Congress workers across the state and garner popular mandate needed to win the elections. However, Nath probably played the final innings of his decorated political career and passed with distinction.
Apart from performance in the current election and ties with the Gandhi family, Nath is also praised for the development work he has done in his Lok Sabha constituency of Chhindwara. The people who have sent Nath to Lok Sabha as many as 9 times, use references like an ‘oasis’ in the desert and ‘keechad mein kamal’ for the district.
The campaigning in the current elections was not an easy task as the MP unit of Congress was riddled with factionalism when Nath was chosen by Rahul Gandhi as the state Congress chief in April over Jyotiraditya Scindia. The leader made big efforts to bring together senior party leaders – former MP chief minister Digvijay Singh, Scindia and Suresh Pachouri – to avoid factionalism coming in party’s way to victory.
The BJP kept training its guns at Nath throughout the elections. Nath also came under attack over an alleged video clip in which he was heard asking clerics to ensure atleast 90 percent voting in the state’s Muslim-dominated areas to ensure a Congress victory.
As he closes in on the finishing line in the race for chief minister, a number of Opposition parties are attacking Congress for choosing Kamal Nath despite his name coming up in the 1984 Sikh riots. While Nath is not facing any criminal proceedings in the case, senior lawyer HS Phoolka has said that there have been eyewitness accounts claiming that he had been seen leading crowds near Gurdwara Rakabganj. The Akali Dal has also criticised Congress over the allegations.
Born in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh to businessman father Mahendra Nath and mother Leela, Nath is an alumnus of the prestigious Doon School (at Dehradun in Uttarakhand). He did his graduation from St Xavier’s college, Kolkata, before taking the plunge into politics.
Nath is a multi-millionare and was the richest MP in 15th Lok Sabha. He has served as Union Minister on multiple ocassions and was instrumental in establishment of Sonia Gandhi as Congress president in the year 2000.