Kamal Nath: Man who won the heartland

Bhopal: When, way back in 1980, Kamal Nath, a Calcutta-based industrialist, all of 33 years then, was transplanted into the back-of-the-beyond constituency of Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh by his Doon School classmate Sanjay Gandhi; the general perception was that he was a fleeting phenomenon and sooner rather than later, would fade away, bidding goodbye to politics.

Withstood the test of time

Kamal Nath took to politics like fish to water and today, almost 38 years down the line, he is the chief minister-designate of Madhya Pradesh.

If Sanjay Gandhi had chosen Chhindwara to launch his classmate into politics, it was not without reason. Right from 1951 onwards, Chhindwara had never disappointed a Congress candidate. And it was the only constituency among the 40 in the then undivided Madhya Pradesh that had stood by the party even in the Janata Party typhoon that swept across North India in 1977. The Congress had lost all the other 39 constituencies.

Indira Gandhi herself campaigned for Kamal Nath in Chhindwara, describing him as her ‘third son’. He won hands down, vanquishing his rival by upwards of 70,000 votes. Since then, he has won from here nine times.

The ‘hawala scam’ and thereafter

In 1996, after his name surfaced in the ‘Hawala scam’, he fielded his wife Alka Nath instead and she too won. Next year, he forced a bye-election by making his wife resign. It was a disastrous move and he ended up losing to BJP heavyweight Sunderlal Patwa. That was the only time he was humbled at the hustings in his political career.

Nath lives in a sprawling mansion at Shikarpur on the outskirts of Chhindwara and flies around in his personal chopper. His prosperity is perceived as some sort of guarantee of his incorruptibility by the electorate.

Stories of his ‘financial magnanimity’ abound. He is known for extending monetary assistance to his voters who are in any kind of distress.

Kamal Nath’s political prowess

Nath’s considered the Congress satrap of the Mahakaushal region of the State, comprising the eight districts of Jabalpur, Mandla, Dindori, Seoni, Balaghat, Chhindwara, Narsinghpur and Katni with Jabalpur as its hub.

Now 72, Nath was appointed MP PCC chief in May this year with the mandate to end the Congress’s extended exile from power. He accomplished his mission successfully and it is now the time to enjoy the reward.