Nath to make swearing-in a grand unity show

LS Herdenia

[dropcap]K[/dropcap]amal Nath, who has been invited to form the government by Governor Anandiben Patel has decided to reenact a Karnataka show in Bhopal. Kamal Nath, who will take oath on December 17 at 1.30 pm, has reportedly extended invitations to several non-BJP leaders to witness his oath-taking ceremony. By doing so he proposes to exhibit the solidarity among non-BJP parties.

Among those who are being invited are West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, DMK leader M K Stalin, BSP leader Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. Of course, Rahul Gandhi will also be a part of this galaxy of leaders. Also invited will be Shivraj Singh Chouhan and central ministers from Madhya Pradesh.

The immediate task before the chief minister-designate is to select the team of ministers. While doing so he will have to balance between various factors, such as regional representation, factional leaders, representation to tribals, schedule castes etc. As for regional representation, Malwa-Nimar region, which gives as many as 35 MLAs to Congress out of a total 66, is likely to get over half-a-dozen ministers.

Congress stalwarts like Sajjan Singh Verma, Jitu Patwal, Tulsiram Silawat, Bala Bachchan, Sachin Yadav and Dr. Vijaylaxmi Sadho are hopeful of ‘big’ portfolios and are keeping their fingers crossed. But new entrant Dr Hiralal Alawa, Jay Adiwasi Yuva Shakti patron and Congress MLA from Manawar, says Congress has no choice but to give him a cabinet berth. Alawa, a former AIIMS Delhi doctor, defeated former BJP minister Ranjana Bagel. Congress has won at least 15 seats of tribal-dominated Malwa region after JYAS rendered its support and it did not contest the poll.

Similarly, several names are being mentioned from various regions also. For instance, Arif Aqeel, several time MLA who also served in Digvijay Singh’s ministry, is regarded certain. Besides Aqueel PC Sharma is also regarded certain from Bhopal. Politicians who would have been an asset in the Nath Ministry but lost the elections include Rahul Singh, who was a member of Digvijay Singh cabinet for long time. Similar is the case of Rajendra Singh, who, too, was in the Digvijaya Singh cabinet. He was deputy Speaker of the dissolved Vidhan Sabha. Narendra Nahta from Mandsaur would also have been a valuable addition. Thus, it will be a Herculean task for Kamal Nath to pick talented MLAs among those who had been lucky enough to win the poll.

The major challenges he faces relate to the waving of farmer loans. Congress president Rahul Gandhi during his election campaign in the state gave a solemn assurance that the Congress government would waive farmer loans within ten days of assuming power. He also declared that if the chief minister does not fulfill this promise he will have to give up his chair. To carry out this assurance the MP government requires a huge sum of Rs 50,000 crore. About Rs 17,500 crore farm loans have been disbursed to nearly 33 lakh farmers from all over the state through co-operative banks. Data on loans given by other banks is being collected. According to sources, going by the Congress manifesto, to waive farm loans of up to Rs 2 lakh, the piled-up debts in this category could be between Rs 50,000 crore and Rs 54,000 crore.

Sources said the actual financial burden on the government will depend on the criteria and cut-off date that the new government decides. There is also the question of whether only crop loan or term loans, like those for purchase of equipment, would be considered. With Rahul’s promise of waiver within 10 days of formation of the government, bureaucrats know the clock is ticking, hence the hurry.

Meanwhile, in an interview with a financial newspaper Kamal Nath said: “Certainly we will do the farm-loan waiver. It is our solemn promise to the farmers. 80% of the farmer loans are with scheduled banks. We will negotiate with the banks and find ways to doing this. We will ensure that the loan waiver is done because one must understand that a farmer is born in debt and dies in debt. The previous government failed the farmers of MP.”

(The author is a senior journalist)