Kamal Nath the persona non grata

Anil Anand
If the hyped media reports and high decibel anchors’ cacophony was to be believed, Congress stalwart Kamal Nath was all set to join the BJP along with his MP son Nakul Nath. For days together, till the time Nath senior landed in Delhi to take a final call, the story ran with multiple detailing about the father-son duo crossing over to the saffron party. However, nothing of the sort happened and the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister returned to Bhopal and it turned out to be much ado about nothing.
What actually transpired during his brief stay in Delhi no one knows. As the reports suggested he had come all prepared to meet senior BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah and the party chief J P Nadda. Ostensibly, his moves were somewhere short-circuited. But by whom?
Mr Kamal Nath,77, had a valid reason to rush to Delhi in search of new frontiers for he was invited by Madhya Pradesh BJP chief to join the party. Was it an off-the-cuff remark by the state unit chief V D Sharma or was he acting to a plan?
Mr Sharma on February 16, days before Nath landed in Delhi, had invited him to join BJP. “Kamal Nath is welcome to join the BJP if he has pain in his heart that the Congress insulted Lord Ram by boycotting the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony. If he (Kamal Nath) is pained by this, he is also welcome to BJP,” he observed.
Did Mr Nath take the BJP state chief on face value? Was he in touch with any of the party’s central leaders before landing in Delhi?
Whatever it might be? It is a clear case of the state chief purposes and the central leadership disposes. As a result, Mr Nath had to face embarrassment thereby totally exposing himself. He did not realize that after the Congress’s defeat in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections under his stewardship, his position had considerably weakened notwithstanding his four-decade standing in the party.
It is unbelievable that Mr Nath rushed to Delhi without any indication from the BJP high command. If it was so why the saffron party leadership developed cold-feet at the last moment. Or had Mr Nath conjured up the entire drama as a pressure building tactics to further extract his pound of flesh from his old party, the Congress.
A master tactician in the art of politics, ostensibly, Mr Nath failed to judge the situation properly. In the aftermath of Madhya Pradesh assembly elections and denial of a Rajya Sabha seat to him, he still thought he has the guile to flex muscles and have his way in the current Congress hierarchy. But that was not to be.
For the first time in a long time Mr Nath, perhaps, got defeated at his own game. Over-confident that his entry into BJP was a surety, he threw tantrums at the Congress leadership such as his son removing the word Congress and related activity on his social media handles, thereby indicating the design of things to come. But that was not to be.
Had he joined the BJP, he would have been the 13th former chief minister of Congress to have crossed over to the saffron party. Why did the BJP allow a “big fish” from Congress to escape their net? Normally, as the past precedents in the last 10 years are, the BJP leadership has no qualms in accepting anyone from the Congress irrespective of the fact whether the person has a tainted image or involved in cases of corruption. Any such entry into the saffron fold is viewed as scoring a big brownie point to drive home the message that the Congress was a sinking ship and that everyone on board was looking for safe shores. But not in the case of Kamal Nath.
Did Mr Nath lose out because of allegations of his connection with the infamous 1984 anti-Sikh riots? The plausible answer could be yes. But then question arises that such allegations have been in the air for decades now and in this backdrop why should the state BJP chief extend an olive branch to him, which in any case would not have been without clearance from the high command.
The current working model in the BJP suggests that barring the two top leaders-Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, the opinion of any other party leader or quarter hardly matters. Had the two leaders agreed to Mr Nath’s entry into the party? If so, then under what pressure the about turn took place.
There were indications of unhappiness in the RSS-BJP quarters on the manner in which the floodgates have been opened for any and everyone from the opposition parties particularly the Congress to join the BJP. Not only were they welcome with open arms but suitably rewarded with Rajya Sabha membership of a ministerial or chief ministerial post. This has definitely caused heartburn among the old and trusted guard of the party but few had courage to stand up and speak. The Nath episode seemed to have broken that barrier.
Perhaps Mr Nath acted in a hurry more to secure future of his son who is MP from his pocket borough Chindwara in Madhya Pradesh, rather than striking a deal for himself. Post state assembly defeat, ostensibly, he had doubts if the Congress will give mandate to his son to seek re-election. Perhaps, he in his wisdom thought it better to strike a deal with the BJP and secure the Lok Sabha seat for his son. Moreso, when BJP has no formidable candidate in the constituency.
From a position of strength which Mr Nath was in, suddenly he has become a persona non grata. There are no takers for him in the BJP while he is being looked upon with doubt and disdain by his own party where he ruled for four decades with an iron fist.
He was given a short-shrift by the BJP high command while he waited eagerly in Delhi for a meeting, there is not much to suggest that much efforts were made by the Congress leadership to assuage his feelings. It will be interesting to see as to how Mr Nath moves ahead from hereon now. What if his son is denied the Lok Sabha ticket from Chindwara?
Fact of the matter is that having burnt his bridges, Mr Nath is left with hardly any option but to accept whatever comes his way or not. Clearly, he has lost his bargaining power in the Congress. And entry into BJP, if at all it happens after this unsavoury episode, will be on a very weak wicket.