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July 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       July 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


The chief minister’s

N D Sharma

Congress government of Madhya Pradesh celebrated six months of its existence in mid-June. Its survival for six months can certainly be considered a major achievement in as much as it has been going through one crisis after another since its formation.

Kamal Nath At the cabinet meeting a day after the celebrations, a minister owing allegiance to Jyotiraditya Scindia was said to have told Chief Minister Kamal Nath that they were not happy with his working. Kamal Nath stopped one of his followers from retaliating and avoided the situation getting ugly. He, however, could not restrain himself from telling the Scindia followers that he knew on whose behalf they were speaking. Later on, a couple of Scindia camp ministers claimed before a section of media that the Chief Minister was not listening to them but he would have to. The Kamal Nath supporters demanded removal of the two ministers from the cabinet.

Jyotiraditya Scindia Squabbling among ministers is not a sudden development. The government had started working under not so healthy circumstances. After a procrastinated tussle with then Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia (who was chairman of Campaign Committee during the Assembly poll campaign), PCC chief Kamal Nath was selected to be the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP). He took oath as Chief Minister on December 17. Selection of ministers turned out to be more difficult.
Scindia and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh ardently pressed the claims for their supporters. Several meetings were held in Bhopal and Delhi. At one stage even party president Rahul Gandhi intervened. The only point of agreement was that the first time MLAs should not be included in the Council of Ministers.

Digvijaya Singh Haggling continued for over a week. In sheer exasperation, Kamal Nath accepted the names and appointed 28 ministers. As Scindia and Singh were said to be insisting on cabinet rank for some of their supporters who had never been ministers in the past, Kamal Nath gave cabinet rank to all of them. Only six of them were with previous experience as ministers, while 22 had been made ministers for the first time. He distributed the departments as demanded. Some of the MLAs who had been ministers in the past and were expecting to be included in the cabinet were left out, reportedly because of the objections either from Digvijaya Singh or from Scindia.
Kamal Nath, 72, started his innings as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh with these handicaps. He had little choice either in picking up his ministers or allotting them portfolios. Moreover, he had no experience of running a State government. He has been active in Parliament since 1980 when he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. He has handled several ministries at the Centre admirably.

Rahul Gandhi But as Chief Minister, neither he has control over his ministers nor has he been able to control the wayward bureaucracy or the ‘criminals in uniform’ as MP’s police force was once described by the State High Court. His task has not been made any easy by Digvijaya Singh who is guiding the bureaucracy and the police according to his own political expediency. That is a major cause of resentment in the Scindia camp as the bureaucrats working in the departments with the Scindia camp ministers are also listening to Digvijaya Singh more than their own ministers.
Frequent transfers and re-transfers of civil and police officers (reportedly involving huge amounts of money) have further paralysed the administration. There is a government in the State but no governance. Madhya Pradesh claims to be a power surplus State but there are frequent power cuts in the State, for long periods in rural and semi-urban areas. The temperature this summer has been unusually high across the State and the supply of drinking water all over the State has been as dismal as in the past.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan The BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan paid little attention to improving drinking water supply in the State. All that the present Congress government did was to promise that the people of the State would soon have ‘Right to Drinking Water’ and a bill for this purpose would be introduced in the next session of the Assembly. Law and order situation is getting worse day by day. The Congress organisation in the State is as much in a disarray as the government. As PCC chief, Kamal Nath has done little to revamp the party.
It was under these circumstances that the Congress went to the Lok Sabha polls in April-May and could win only one seat (out of 29). Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath won with a slender margin from Chhindwara which Kamal Nath had vacated to contest from Chhindwara Assembly constituency which the party MLA had vacated for the Chief Minister. This turned out to be the beginning of another excruciating period for Kamal Nath.

At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held to review the miserable performance of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha elections, party president Rahul Gandhi was reported to have remarked that Kamal Nath (along with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Tamil Nadu leader P Chidambaram) had neglected the party interests for the sake of their sons. Kamal Nath was not present at the meeting.

Narendra Modi Later on, Kamal Nath sought appointment from Rahul Gandhi but did not get it. He went to Delhi hoping that he would be able see the party president but in vain. He made a ‘courtesy call’ on Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his newly elected son Nakul Nath which created mirth in social media. There was a cartoon in which Kamal Nath was shown presenting his son to PM Modi and saying: he is all alone, please adopt him also.

Amit Shah To further add to Kamal Nath’s woes, Home Minister Amit Shah constituted a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to re-investigate the anti-Sikh riots of 1984; Shah was said to have specifically asked the SIT to probe why Kamal Nath’s name was not included in the FIR by Delhi police at the time even though Nath was said to be present before Rakabganj Gurdwara when two Sikhs were killed. Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate investigations were already going on against him. These were started during the Lok Sabha election campaign. Soon after the SIT was constituted, Kamal Nath made a ‘courtesy call’ on Home Minister Amit Shah.

Sonia Gandhi Rahul Gandhi was unavailable and Kamal Nath failed to meet Sonia Gandhi also. On return to Bhopal, it was reported in a section of Bhopal media that he had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi seeking direction to three top Congress leaders of Madhya Pradesh (apparently Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh and himself) to withdraw two ministers each from the cabinet so that he (Kamal Nath) could reshuffle his cabinet and accommodate some disgruntled MLAs from Congress as well as outside. In the 230-member Assembly, Congress has 114 members. His government is supported by one SP, two BSP and 4 independent members. BJP strength has come down from 109 to 108 as Jhabua MLA G S Damor was elected to Lok Sabha.
Kamal Nath is thus in a really unenviable position. His own high command is not listening to him. His ministers are not obeying him. His two party colleagues, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia are not leaving him free to run the government. The Centre is going relentlessly against him in Income Tax, money laundering and antiSikh riot cases. What would be his next move is anybody’s guess.