NEW DELHI/ BHOPAL: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has placed his bets on veteran Kamal Nath to win back Madhya Pradesh while naming a younger Jyotiraditya Scindia as the party’s campaign chief in the poll-bound state.
The AICC has been locked in indecision over the issue for several months as Rahul weighed the pros and cons of deploying a popular Scindia or experienced Kamal Nath to steer the party ahead of the November assembly polls.
On Thursday, he finally Rahul named Kamal Nath as the new MP unit chief. He also brought in Bala Bachchan, Ramnivas Rawat, Jitu Patwari and Surendra Chaudhary as four new working presidents. However, a call on the chief ministerial nominee will be taken after the polls, sources said.
Kamal Nath thanked both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi for reposing trust in him and said he would work together with all party leaders in the state to bring down the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. “I will give my best to defeat the BJP. I will work with courage and coordinate with everyone,” he said.
He flagged issues like poor law and order, farm distress, joblessness and education mafia as the sore points of the Chouhan rule.
Party insiders said Rahul was inclined towards Guna MP Scindia, but gave in to advisors who argued that Kamal Nath, a nine-term Lok Sabha member from Chhindwara, was a better bet given the challenges in Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress has been out of power in the state for the past 14 years and Rahul is keen to reverse that situation. Had he named Scindia as the new state unit chief, a simmering factional fight may have gone out of hand, according to sources.
Party insiders acknowledged that the MP Congress has been divided between the camps of Scindia, Kamal Nath and two-term chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
However, Singh said he was never in the race and welcomed Kamal Nath’s appointment. Singh said he would further travel across the state to defeat the BJP.
The appointment of four working presidents is being seen as a balancing act in the faction-ridden party keeping in mind regional, caste and loyalty factors.
Bachchan, a tribal leader from Nimar region, is considered close to Kamal Nath. While Chaudhary is a SC leader from Bundelkhand region, Patwari and Rawat are OBC leaders from Malwa and Gwalior-Chambal regions, respectively. Chaudhary and Rawat belong to Singh and Scindia camps, respectively, while Patwari is seen to be close to Rahul.
While Rahul banked on an experienced leader in MP, he handed over the charge of Goa to youngster Girish Chodankar, who will replace veteran Shantaram Naik who had resigned recently.