Shinde’s rebellion has dealt a severe blow to the Sena, posing a grave threat to the MVA government’s survival and continuance.
“The Congress president has deputed Kamal Nath as AICC observer in Maharashtra in the wake of recent political developments in the state, with immediate effect,” said a statement issued by K C Venugopal, the AICC general secretary in charge of organisation.
A veteran parliamentarian and ex-Union minister, the 75-year-old Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president, Kamal Nath, has been a key party trouble-shooter, emerging as the grand old party’s go-to man for handling various crises especially after the demise of its principal troubleshooter Ahmed Patel in November 2020.
Apart from Pawar and Patel, Nath had played a crucial role in forging the MVA coalition in November 2019 in collaboration with Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who became the Chief Minister.
According to Congress insiders, with the NCP and the Congress then going back and forth over joining hands with the Sena, it was Nath who had cemented their bonds by convincing them with his argument that unlike the BJP the Sena did not have umbilical links with the RSS.
Many Congress leaders believe that Nath is the only senior leader in the party who could fill the huge void created by Patel’s departure to some degree.
In the context of the raging MVA crisis, Nath is being seen as perhaps the only one among the Congress’s old guard leaders, who has the heft and skills to deal with it in coordination with Pawar and Uddhav.
After being appointed as the MPCC chief just seven months before the November 2018 Assembly elections, Nath steered the party to victory after an electoral drought of 15 years in the state. He took over as the CM and remained in office till March 2020, when he was forced to resign following the defection of a group of Congress MLAs affiliated to his then party rival Jyotiraditya Scindia to the BJP.
An astute politician who has worked with the three generations of Gandhis – Indira, Rajiv, Sonia and Rahul – Nath, who was born in Kanpur to an established business family, is at the other end of the spectrum from the MP CM and senior BJP leader, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, whose roots are in an OBC agrarian family in Vidisha near Bhopal.
After being appointed as the MPCC president, Nath had to initially deal with the tag of being an outsider to the state politics. Brought up in Kolkata, Nath had never dabbled in state politics prior to this assignment.
Born to a Brahmin family, he has represented the tribal-dominated Chhindwara in the Lok Sabha as well as the state Assembly for over four decades. He is seen as a money-bag politician, who has a close association with several big industrial houses.
As the environment minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government, he had earned accolades during the Earth Summit in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro for safeguarding the rights of farmers.
Nath’s relationship with Madhya Pradesh could be traced to 1980, when then Congress chief Indira Gandhi had described him as her “third son” in Chhindwara.
Besides being among Sanjay Gandhi’s close friends, Nath was also one of Rajiv Gandhi’s trusted lieutenants, tasked with managing allies and the Opposition as he had wide acceptability. He served as a minister with various portfolios in the Cabinets of former PM late Narasimha Rao and ex-PM Manmohan Singh.
(With ENS inputs)