Union Minister Kamal Nath was not someone that the U.S. wanted to be identified with back in 1976 despite his professed “sincere” pro-American pronouncements.
“He is a bull in a china shop, a political novice who if he has his way (and that is just possible) will destroy the delicate equilibrium within the [West Bengal] state congress party and in relations here between Congress and the CPI and CPI(M) and set off dangerous turmoil (to some extent this has already begun). We tried in our talk with Nath to inject some awareness of these dangers but he was serenely confident of the rightness of the course and Sanjay’s ability to control events,” was the frank assessment (1976NEWDE17173_b, confidential) of two U.S. diplomats after they met “Sanjay Gandhi’s eminence grise in West Bengal” over lunch in Calcutta.
There is more: “Nath speaks with such brashness, boastfulness and at times naive simplicity that one tends to discount it all,” the cable noted, but also cautioned that would be a mistake as he was close to Sanjay Gandhi, went to school with him, and had been the first to tip-off U.S. diplomats about the coming ouster of Priya Ranjan Das Munshi as President the Youth Congress, “weeks before the story reached the press (even as a rumour).”
At the meeting, which took place more than a year after Emergency had been imposed, Nath bragged about his importance in Sanjay Gandhi’s scheme of things. He spoke about his “leading role” in the plot to remove Siddharth Shankar Ray as West Bengal Chief Minister, and said after that was done the next month, in December 1976, “we will go to work on Nandini”, a reference to then Orissa Chief Minister Nandini Sathpathy.
“Leftists” would be purged from the Congress all across India, not just in the eastern States, Kamal Nath told the diplomats, commenting that after this the party would be ready for the general elections.
Kamal Nath, who is now Union Minister for Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs, told the diplomats that he wanted to see better India-U.S. relations. He suggested that like the Soviets who sent large numbers of Indian journalists, politicians and others to Russia, the Americans too should take junkets of “leftist Congress politicians”— not ‘hard core’ leftists, just people identified in the public mind with the Left — to the U.S. next year”.
This, he told the diplomats, would identify them with the U.S. and “make things easier for us”.
Congress Muslims against Pranab
Another cable, (1976NEWDE16804_b) which talks about the moves to replace Chief Minister Siddharth Shankar Ray in 1976, asserts that the then Union Minister of State Pranab Mukherjee “has the support of the largest number of those who oppose Ray, but it appears that most of the party's Moslems oppose or have reservations about Mukherjee”.
The cable asserts that the CPI “particularly dislikes Pranab Mukherjee, whom it views as a reactionary, a friend of business and Sanjay Gandhi's man, and whom it fears would as chief minister do all possible to weaken the CPI.”