BHOPAL — The Congress on Thursday night named veteran leader Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh’s next chief minister after hours of hectic parleys held by the party chief Rahul Gandhi with senior party leaders in the national capital amid a debate on the old versus the new guard.
Flanked by Jyotiraditya Scindia, the other senior leader from the state who was in contention for the top post, Nath said that as the new chief minister he would ensure all promises made by the Congress party are fulfilled and that Madhya Pradesh’s future was secure.
Asserting that the state unit of the party was united and there were no “camps”, Nath thanked Scindia and said he has no problems with him. He also recalled his long association with the Gandhi family, starting with the late Indira Gandhi.
Nath, 72, will meet Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel at 10.30 am Friday to take forward the government formation and discuss the details of swearing-in ceremony.
Asked about the Congress’s manifesto promise of farm loan waiver, he said, “It is a challenging time and we will all together fulfil the promises made in our ‘Vachan Patra’.”
Soon after the veteran leader reached Bhopal to a rousing welcome by his supporters chanting ‘Jai Jai Kamal Nath’, the party’s central observer for Madhya Pradesh AK Antony told the newly-elected MLAs that Nath’s name has been decided for the chief minister post.
Subsequently, Scindia proposed Nath’s name as the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader and it was approved “unanimously” by the MLAs, leaders said.
While Scindia left for home soon after the meeting, Nath was surrounded by his supporters who had gathered in large numbers there to congratulate him to become the state’s chief minister for the first time.
Nath, who has earlier held multiple portfolios in the union cabinet, recalled his association with the former prime minister Indira Gandhi and said it was she who had introduced him to Chhindwara, which has since become his home turf electing him to Lok Sabha nine times.
He also said that he has had the privilege of working with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi.
Thanking Jyotiraditya Scindia, he said he had also worked with his father late Madhavrao Scindia. “He has supported me and that matters a lot,” he said.
Nath was decided as the chosen one after marathon meetings at the party president Rahul Gandhi’s residence in the national capital, attended by various senior leaders including Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi had also reached the Tughlaq Lane house when the deliberations were on, but it could not be confirmed whether she was also a participant.
Soon after arriving in Bhopal, Nath and Scindia reached Indira Bhawan, the Congress state headquarters, and held a meeting of party’s newly elected MLAs and conveyed the party high command’s decision.
Nath, who was appointed as president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee on April 26, is credited with having steered the party to a win in the just-concluded assembly polls, in which the party bagged 114 seats.
The Congress has secured support of a total of 121 MLAs, including SP (1) and BSP (2) legislators as also of four independents, to cross the majority mark of 116 seats in the 230-member assembly.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which ruled the state for 15 years, got 109 seats in the elections. The saffron party’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the state’s longest serving chief minister since taking charge in 2005.
Nath said he was “hungry” for the Congress’s return to power in the state and asserted that the party has got “unconditional” support from the SP and the BSP.