Kamal Nath's appointment may seem strange, but matches the turn Congress has been taking
It is not for nothing that the appointment of Kamal Nath as chief of Indian National Congress's Madhya Pradesh unit has come as a surprise for many. Nath is 71, has never helmed the party's affairs in the state in any position and had himself endorsed the name of Jyotiradiya Scindia for the party's chief ministerial candidate last September.
The return of former MP chief minister Digvijay Singh from his Narmada pilgrimage, however, seems to have changed the situation drastically. It has been widely reported that Singh lent his weight behind Nath, telling the party high command that he would prefer the member of Parliament froom to Scindia.
Bang came the announcement: Nath appointed president. Scindia was also given a key charge – head of the campaign committee for the upcoming Assembly elections. In yet another surprise, four working presidents were also appointed, two of them said to be bearing allegiance to Singh.
Essentially, in one stroke, all three warring factions of the Congress in MP were accommodated. The objective, so far, is clear – unite squabbling leaders and make all of them work for one goal: defeat three-time CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections also, the party had appointed four working presidents for the state to simultaneously reach out to Dalits, other backward classes, Patels and tribals. However, the PCC chief wasn't changed and Bharat Singh Solanki was asked to continue. No CM face was announced.
The strategy could be considered a relative success as the party bettered its performance. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in fact, came very close to defeat.
It was different in Punjab, where former CM Amarinder Singh was formally designated as the choice for the CM's post. Singh was highly confident of his victory and convinced high command to give him complete charge. He was already serving as PCC chief.
The Punjab game-plan was entirely successful and Singh brought the state to the Congress again. Congress President Rahul Gandhi would be hoping that Kamal Nath will achieve the same feat in MP, helped by rival camps led by Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia.
There are rumblings in the state that Nath has also been given the charge as he is the one most likely to bring much-needed funds for the campaign. He declared assets worth over Rs 200 crore in his affidavit filed before the Election Commission in 2014.
With a 76-year old CM in Punjab and a 71-year old PCC chief in MP, many feel that Gandhi's original strategy of phasing out the old guard has been turned on its head. However, Gandhi himself had indicated this shift in his speech at the party's plenary last month.
“If the youth have to take the Congress forward, it cannot be done without the experience of the party veterans. My task is to be take them together,” he said at the outset.
In MP, with the old guard firmly back in the driver's seat, it remains to be seen how much would the strategy work. Even if it results in taking the tally up for the party, it may impact formulation of the game plan for the big battle, the next Lok Sabha polls.