Those who were looking for a repeat of Karnataka in Madhya Pradesh, despite obvious differences in the composition of the two state Assemblies, did not pay heed to the most important difference: That between the chief ministers of the two states, (outgoing) Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Kamal Nath.
Kamal Nath is no HD Kumaraswamy.
Nath is the reason the Karnataka debacle of the Congress-JD(S) alliance could not be repeated in a vote on a bill in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Wednesday.
Although he is a first-time chief minister who assumed office less than a year ago, Nath is one of the biggest survivors of the huge electoral debacle that the Congress has faced in the past two Lok Sabha elections. He retained his seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls despite the strong winds blowing against the party and those that decimated the fortunes of some of its biggest leaders.
In the Narendra Modi wave of 2019, where seasoned Congress leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh and Kantilal Bhuria lost elections, Nath was the only leader who saved his constituency of Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh by getting his son Nakul elected as an MP, which was the latter's electoral debut.
On the other hand, Kumaraswamy — despite being the Chief Minister of Karnataka — failed to ensure victory for his father and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda in the Lok Sabha election. The JD(S) supremo lost to the BJP candidate from Tumkur constituency, GS Basavaraj.
Even within the party, Nath has been a survivor, standing tall through various leadership upheavals that the party has witnessed in the nearly-half century that he has spent as a politician.
That makes Nath not just a resolute survivor, but also an astute politician who knows how to play his cards well no matter the situation. Even during parlays within the party to decide on the new Madhya Pradesh chief minister in December last year, Nath remained nonchalant, never revealing any excitement till the moment he was anointed as chief minister.
A man of few words, he also chooses carefully what he speaks. In his long career, Nath has never shot from the hip, never been part of any controversy.
Kumaraswamy, on the other hand, has quite often revealed that his political maturity still needs some honing.
While in Karnataka, Kumaraswamy had been grappling with dissent from among his MLAs; Nath, on the other hand, in a calculative move wooed two BJP MLAs to his side, who voted for his government on Wednesday on a bill. As a result, the Congress got 122 votes — two more than the number of seats it commands.
Currently, in the 230-seat Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the ruling Congress has 114 MLAs and is supported by two BSP, one Samajwadi Party and four Independent lawmakers, whereas the BJP has 108 MLAs. The halfway mark is 115.
In any case, the Nath government is not a coalition as in Karnataka, where Kumaraswamy had to depend on MLAs from alliance partner, the Congress. Moreover, unlike Madhya Pradesh where the Congress came to power on its own strength, in Karnataka neither of the two — JD(S) or Congress had the numbers. The BJP emerged as the largest party in the southern state.
Nath, an expert in parliamentary floor management, maintains cordial relations with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
A statement made by the Madhya Pradesh chief minister in the legislative Assembly on Wednesday is testimony to the fact. The Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly and BJP member, Gopal Bhargava claimed that the party could topple the Congress administration in 24 hours, if instructions from "Number 1" and "Number 2" — a possible reference to Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah — were received.
In response, instead of making any oblique comment against the BJP's top leadership, Nath replied, "Your Number 1 and 2 are wise, that's why they are not giving orders. If you want, bring a no-confidence motion."
Wednesday's drama in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly also shows Nath's preparedness well in advance to safeguard his government, which had been under a threat from the Opposition BJP.
"The BJP had been talking for six months (about toppling the government), but we’ve proved that Congress enjoys a majority in the House," remarked Nath with confidence on Wednesday.
Updated Date: Jul 25, 2019 13:53:52 IST