Amid buzz over Kamal Nath joining BJP, M.P. Congress leaders recall his ties to the Gandhi family

Mr. Nath arrives in Delhi, does not deny rumours; Jitu Patwari, who replaced him as State Congress chief, recalls that he was Indira Gandhi’s “third son”; Congress moniker missing from son Nakul Nath’s bio

February 17, 2024 04:04 pm | Updated 09:44 pm IST - UJJAIN

File picture of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath

File picture of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Amid speculation that former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath could shift his loyalties to the BJP, top Congress leaders from the State on Saturday made an emotional outreach to the Congress veteran, recalling his over four decade-long association with the Gandhi family. Mr. Nath, who cancelled his M.P. schedule and arrived in the national capital on Saturday, played down the rumours, but would not deny them outright.

Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh insisted that his long-time colleague would not break his 45-year-old ties with the family and the party.

Also read | ‘Why will I go to Delhi?’ asks Kamal Nath; says he will remain active in Madhya Pradesh

“I spoke to Kamal Nath ji last night [that is, Friday night], around 10:30 to 11 p.m. The person who started his political career standing with the Nehru-Gandhi family at a time when the entire Janata Party and the then-Central government wanted to send [former PM] Indira Gandhi to jail, can you even imagine that such a person will ever leave Sonia Gandhi ji and Indira Gandhi ji’s family or the Congress?” he told reporters in Jabalpur.

Indira’s third son

M.P. Congress president Jitu Patwari told reporters in Bhopal that Indira Gandhi had introduced Mr. Nath as her third son at a public meeting when he contested elections for the first time in the 1980s.

“I remember the time when Jyotiraditya Scindia had toppled the Congress government [in M.P. in 2020]. Even then, every single worker of the party stood with Kamal Nath ji’s leadership and ideology,” he said. “All the reports are baseless. Can you even think in your dreams that Indira ji’s third son can leave the party? Can Kamal Nath ji talk about leaving the party workers who dedicated their everything to make him Chief Minister just two months ago [during the November 2023 Assembly polls]?” Mr. Patwari said.

No denial

Mr. Nath, who reached Delhi after cancelling his political programmes in his bastion of M.P.’s Chhindwara, played down the rumours, but did not deny them outright. Responding to a reporter who pointed out that he was not denying the speculation, Mr. Nath said: “You are saying this, you people are getting excited. I am not getting excited, this side or that side, but if there would be any such thing, I would inform you first.”

The buzz about him switching sides, which has been going on for days, intensified when it was noted that the Congress identification had gone missing from the bio of Mr. Nath’s son and Chhindwara Lok Sabha member Nakul Nath’s official social media handles.

Sajjan Singh Verma, a former State Minister and a close aide of Mr. Nath, who had also dropped the ‘Congress’ from his X bio, said that if a leader of Mr. Nath’s stature considered leaving his party, it would be due to his honour and self-respect. If a party “fails to respect” such leaders, it is the party’s “weakness”, he said, adding, “This is why the person is free to make any decision.”

BJP’s doors are open

Statements from M.P. BJP leaders, saying that their “doors are open”, have been fuelling the speculation as well. On Friday, State BJP president V.D. Sharma said that the party’s doors were open for those who believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP’s leadership, and for those who are “upset due to the Congress’ insult of Lord Ram”.

Mr. Nath, who had led the Congress’ unsuccessful campaign in last year’s Assembly elections, had been singled out and blamed for the debacle at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet held to review the party’s poll performance. Soon after the results, Mr. Nath was also replaced as the State Congress chief by the younger Mr. Patwari. 

According to Congress insiders in Bhopal, Mr. Nath had been pushing for a Rajya Sabha ticket for himself. The party, however, has fielded Mr. Singh’s close aide and State Congress treasurer Ashok Singh.

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