Not fully a Congress govt
Kamal Nath does not seem to have broken free from the legacy he has inherited
When Kamal Nath was appointed Madhya Pradesh Pradesh Congress Committee president in April last year, there was a question on everybody’s mind whether the warhorse would be able to lead the party in the assembly polls. He did and his party won.
Immediately after taking the oath of office on December 17, Nath waived farm loans of up to ~2 lakh as promised by his party in its election manifesto.
In less than two months in office, the Nath government has taken several propeople decisions. After the debt waiver, it amended the industrial policy and assured 70 per cent of jobs for the local youth, and promised to provide 100 days’ employment to the urban youth under the Yuva Swamibhan Yojana.
After this, however, the government faced some hiccups. Lack of communication was evident in some of its preliminary decisions where it was forced to go into reverse.
It suspended the tradition of singing Vande Mataram on the first day of every month. When criticised by the BJP, Nath said the practice would continue in an altered form.
The new government put on hold the payment of pension to those who were detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act during the Emergency. The scheme was launched by the BJP government. Upon fierce opposition, the government said it had merely ordered verifying those detained under the Act to ensure only the genuine ones received the pension.
The same was the case with the Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana (now called the price deficit scheme). While Nath was in Davos to attend the World Economic Forum’s meeting, state Agriculture Minister Sachin Yadav said the government had decided to scrap the scheme because it was harmful for farmers. However, after former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s protest and the intervention of Nath, Yadav is saying discrepancies in the scheme would be removed and a scheme, more beneficial to farmers, would be brought in.
On the administrative front As often happens in India, an administrative reshuffle was expected after the regime change but it happened in a gradual manner. The appointment of Sudhir Ranjan Mohanty, a 1982 batch IAS officer, as chief secretary was one such move. Mohanty is considered close to former CM Digvijaya Singh. The closeness of Nath and Singh is no secret.
Another key decision was to remove Rishi Kumar Shukla from the post of director general of police and make him the chief of the MP Police Housing Board. Later of course the central government appointed him director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A highly-placed source in the CM Office said: “There are some 300 senior officers in the state. The CM has to work with them only.”
Nath, who is technically running a minority government with the help of independent MLAs and those of small parties, has been bold and vocal as regards his opponents. When asked about the BJP trying to poach Congress MLAs, Nath replied at least four BJP MLAs were in touch with him. According to sources, at least two BJP MLAs are willing to vacate their seats for his candidature in the Assembly. Whenever in Bhopal, Nath stays in office till all hours. This is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Chouhan. Chouhan used to sit in the office for only a few hours. A source close to Nath said: “Nath’s functioning is more of a corporate nature. He sets aims and tries to achieve them.”
Political analyst Girija Shankar provides a different take on the government’s work culture. He said, “It seems the government is in a settling-down phase and confused. Till now the government has been following the BJP agenda and that too in an explicit manner.” He said: “The order to open 1,000
gaushalas (cow shelters) at the earliest, invoking the National Security Act (NSA) against three persons for alleged cow slaughter, extending the Mukhyamantri Teerthdarshan Yojana for Kumbh in Prayagraj, trebling the honorarium of temple priests are some of such moves.”
State Congress Spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi denies these allegations. “We believe in the Sanatana tradition and the matters related to cows were always priority for us and will remain so.”
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath with Congress President Rahul Gandhi and party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia at a recent rally