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Business News/ Politics / News/  From 'Indira's Third Son' to BJP ally? Kamal Nath's reported defection sends shockwaves through Congress
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From 'Indira's Third Son' to BJP ally? Kamal Nath's reported defection sends shockwaves through Congress

The 77-year-old Congress veteran Kamal Nath is reportedly unhappy over not being considered for Rajya Sabha by the party that he has been part of for over five decades of his political career.

Madhya Pradesh State Congress President Kamal Nath addresses a public meeting at Harrai block of Amarwada Assembly in Chhindwara district. (Congress MP/ X)Premium
Madhya Pradesh State Congress President Kamal Nath addresses a public meeting at Harrai block of Amarwada Assembly in Chhindwara district. (Congress MP/ X)

In January, Congress party spokesperson Alok Sharma said, during an interaction with a TV channel, that he wonders if Kamal Nath aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh assembly polls. Sharma's 'derogatory remarks' against the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister earned him a show cause notice from the party.

A month and a half later, Kamal Nath and his son Nakul Kamal Nath arrived in Delhi on Saturday amid reports of their switch to the BJP. Kamal Nath has not denied the rumours. The nine-time Parliamentarian has not met any top BJP leaders. However, BJP's Madhya Pradesh president VD Sharma said he was welcome in the party.

Back-to-back drubbings

The BJP swept the November 2023 Madhya Pradesh assembly election bagging 163 of 230 seats, successfully beating anti-incumbency. The state Congress leaders blamed Kamal Nath, the party’s state president, for its loss citing his overconfidence, lackadaisical campaign, among other complaints. He was replaced by Jitu Patwari as the president of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee.

Kamal Nath was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2020 when his colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia led a revolt of legislators and toppled his government. Shivraj Singh Chouhan became the Chief Minister and Scindia went on to become the minister of civil aviation in the Narendra Modi cabinet.

"He (Kamal Nath) was chosen over Jyotiraditya Scindia as the MP CM (2018). But his government couldn't last more than 15 months. Later the party gave him another chance by making him the face of 2023 state polls. But we know what happened," said a Congress leader who did not want to be named.

The 77-year-old Congress veteran is reportedly unhappy over not being considered for Rajya Sabha by the party that he has been part of for over five decades of his political career. The Congress chose Gwalior-Chambal politician Ashok Singh for Rajya Sabha elections. Some reports, however, suggested it was Kamal Nath who pushed Ashok Singh's name as against Meenakshi Natarajan, who was reportedly Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's pick for the Upper House.

Many say Kamal Nath's reason to join the BJP is to secure his son Nakul's political future. Nakul is MP from Chhindwara and expected to be fielded by BJP from this seat in 2024.

Indira Gandhi's 'third son'

Born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh on November 18, 1946, Kamal Nath has served as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh once besides holding various ministerial positions in the Union Council of Ministers.

After graduating in commerce from St Xavier’s College in Kolkata, Kamal Nath joined the Indian Youth Congress in 1968. He was elected to Lok Sabha nine times from the Chhindwara constituency of Madhya Pradesh.

Kamal Nath is arguably one of the tallest veteran of the party having worked with three generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The ties go back to his schooldays with Sanjay Gandhi, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's son, at the Doon School in Dehradun. It is said that he was rewarded for his friendship with Sanjay with the Chhindwara seat in Madhya Pradesh in the 1980 Lok Sabha polls. Indira Gandhi had once famously referred to Kamal Nath as her 'third son.' Old timers recall an election slogan “Indira ke do haath, Sanjay Gandhi aur Kamal Nath (Indira's two hands, Sanjay Gandhi and Kamal Nath" popular during election campaigning in Chhindwara in 1980's.

Kamal Nath had been a Delhi leader, known for his links with the corporates, until 2018 when he was appointed the Madhya Pradesh Congress chief. In the 2018 assembly polls, in which Congress emerged as single largest party, Rahul Gandhi anointed him as the CM, a main reason that upset Jyotiraditya Scindia. 

Kamal Nath's political career has its share of controversies too. His name often comes up for his alleged involvement in the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Kamal Nath has denied the allegations.

"After the defeat in MP, he wanted to be sent to Rajya Sabha. He was never a regional satrap. Also, had he been a Nehru-Gandhi loyalist, he would never leave them at a time when the party is bracing for one of its toughest electoral battles ever," another Congress leader said.

If Kamal Nath switches to BJP, he will join the leagues nine other former Chief Ministers who left the Congress party after 2014, close followed by Maharashtra’s Ashok Chavan who joined the BJP on February 13, dealing a yet another blow to the already-rattled Congress party, ahead of 2024 general elections. 

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Published: 18 Feb 2024, 11:02 AM IST
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