Veteran leader Kamal Nath will be the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the Congress decided late on Thursday evening, two days after the voters of Madhya Pradesh had given their verdict in favour of the party.
The decision was announced after hectic parleys and consultations were followed by a late-night meeting of Congress legislators in Bhopal.
The 48 hours after the results saw supporters of Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia wait expectantly for their leader to be named for the post.
In the end, it was the old guard that triumphed over the younger generation as the 72-year-old Kamal Nath edged out the 47-year-old Scindia.
The decision came hours after Congress president Rahul Gandhi met both the leaders in Delhi. The two flew to Bhopal in the evening, accompanied by senior party leader AK Antony, for a formal meeting with the elected party legislators.
Kamal Nath, Member of Parliament from Chhindwara, had been appointed the party’s state unit president in the run-up to the assembly elections.
Scindia, a four-time MP from Guna, was the party’s state campaign committee chief. He had played a crucial role in the party’s poll success and is part of the young generation of leaders with a mass appeal.
Who Is Kamal Nath?
Born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, on 18 November 1946, Kamal Nath studied at the prestigious Doon School in Dehradun. This is where he said to have come close to Sanjay Gandhi, the elder son of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
He then studied for a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree at the St Xavier’s College, University of Calcutta.
He joined the Congress and contested his first Lok Sabha election in 1980.
The senior Congress leader is regarded as a veteran politician with friends and well-wishers cutting across party lines.
He is married to Alka Nath and has two sons.
Marathon Run In Lok Sabha, Government
A nine-time MP from Chhindwara, Kamal Nath was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980. He was re-elected in 1985, 1989, and 1991.
He was denied a party ticket in 1996, in view of his alleged involvement in the “hawala scam”. Instead, it was his wife who contested as the party candidate and won from what was by now becoming a Congress stronghhold.
Alka Kamal Nath vacated the seat after he was cleared of the charges, but her husband lost the by-election in 1997. He won again in 1998, and has since represented the constituency in Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms.
Kamal Nath was a member of the Union Council of Ministers, holding diverse portfolios between 1991 and 2014.
The positions he held included Minister of State (Independent Charge) Environment and Forests, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Union Minister of Urban Development.
He also held important posts within the Congress, including that of party general secretary between 2001 and 2004.
Leading A Congress Revival
Kamal Nath was appointed the president of a faction-ridden state Congress unit in the run-up to the 2018 Assembly elections in five states.
One of his key tasks was to ensure that all party seniors, including former state Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and Scindia, worked together for a Congress victory.
The Congress finished two short of a majority with 114 seats after a day of fluctuating fortunes as counting progressed on Tuesday. There were moments when the Congress would edge past the half-way mark of 216 before the BJP pulled things back.
As counting continued till late into the night, it became clear that the Congress could need additional support to form the government.
Kamal Nath shot off a letter to Governor Anandiben Patel, informing her that he had the numbers to form the government, having received the support of Independents, the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Samajwadi Party.
The stalemate continued till Wednesday afternoon, when three-time Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan conceded defeated. The BJP would not stake claim to form a government since the party had not won the required number of seats, he pointed out.
The BSP and SP had, in the meantime, expressed their intent to support a Congress government.
Life Beyond Politics
Having studied in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Kamal Nath still retains his connections with the city. He is a member of the city’s prestigious Tollygunge Club, and the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club.
The Lok Sabha website lists his special interests as “development of tribals and the oppressed classes, Wild life, Horticulture, and Socio-economic issues”. His favourite pastime is listening to music.
Those who know him closely vouch for his astute business sense as well. He is the president of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Ghaziabad.