All-conquering Kamal Nath factor on test
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All-conquering Kamal Nath factor on test

As the going gets tough for Congress in Madhya Pradesh, its candidates in Chhindwara, Seoni and Betul either look at the sky or at Kamal Nath, writes Sarita Kaushik.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2003 11:44 IST

As the going gets tough for Congress in Madhya Pradesh, its candidates in Chhindwara, Seoni and Betul either look at the sky or at Kamal Nath. The much-touted, all-conquering and all-pervading Kamal Nath factor is on test.

There was a time when Kamal Nath and his followers could afford to talk of clean sweep in the eight constituencies of Chhindwara. Now as Kamal Nath personally cuts through the region in his chopper, covering constituencies, analysing weaker ones, the urgency is obvious.

Hindustan Times while on a campaign trail with Kamal Nath picked up these signals. For one, the Congress here is facing an internal crisis. It is riddled with rebels and resentment. Kamal Nath may still be the undisputed leader but not all Congressmen are in the mood to accept the candidates fielded. Dissenting voices have risen in as many as five of the eight constituencies of Chhindwara– Sausar, Chaurai, Parasia, Damua and Jamai.

In case of Parasia, the resentment touched its peak as the name of a candidate declared earlier was withdrawn to adjust another. In Sausar, senior Congressmen took their resentment to Kamal Nath over sitting MLA and candidate Ajay Chawre’s high-handedness and groupism.

In Chaurai, till now the Lodhi subservience to the Raghuvanshis’ was represented by ‘vote hamara, raj tumhara’. This time round, they have raised voice in the Congress insisting ‘vote hamara, raj tumhara, nahin chalega, nahin chalega.’

As Kamal Nath traverses the tribal- intensive Bargi village or then Sawarni, Congressmen turn up. But, he knows they are here only because of him.

“Inhone Khilafat ki hai (they have rebelled),” he says pointing at them as they blush, touch his feet and look away.

At Bargi, he takes an assurance that they will work for the official candidate. At Dhanegaon again, he gently chides them for indulging in this “natak (drama).”

People immediately scramble to tell him, “aap ne aadesh diya hai to ab koi shikayat nahin hai (now that you have directed, we have no grouse).” As he moves on, he takes the rebels along, talks to them, his personal attention obviously meant to sooth their ruffled feathers.

The fact is obvious- Kamal Nath is putting in more energy, more time and more campaign – all to quell resentment. Yet another test is anti-incumbency. BJP and other opposition while using the opportunity to highlight issues like roads, electricity, water and irrigation are sparing no pains to use this factor.

Kamal Nath in his public speeches is indirectly compelled to reply to their charges.‘Bhaisaab’ as he is popularly known, is trying to woo the voters by hook and crook. He reminds villagers of their old ties with him while also telling them that the village, which gives the maximum votes to ‘him’ has the greatest right to get work done.

But developmental issues are giving him a tough time. In Sawarni, Kamal Nath actually spoke aloud the public conception that works announced by him were not being implemented by his people.

In Bichua block, Kamal Nath agreed that work is incomplete but he further insisted that if the Congress were not voted to power, the on-going works would also stop. In Parasia, people are unhappy over the inability to stop closure of coalmines. In Macha Gora, people are unhappy over the seemingly endless work on power plant project.

Be it Shikarpur or Pipla or Bhidoni, people still want to touch his feet just as some want him to hold a sick child. But there are many who add wistfully, “If it was him, we would vote for him today, but for his men, no.”

Kamal Nath knows this. At every meeting, he now puts himself at stake. He appeals to people to forget the contesting candidates. Instead, he insists, “Main hi aapka vidhayak hun, main hi aap ka sansad.”

Kamal Nath acknowledges that the election is tough. But candidates like Ajay Chawre say, “Bhaisaab ko chunao jeetana aata hai (He knows how to win elections).”

Little wonder then that for mere assembly elections, here is a Kamal Nath - more indulgent, more tolerant, more anxious and networking like never before.

First Published: Nov 27, 2003 00:00 IST