Kamal Nath removed as Madhya Pradesh Congress chief after poll defeat | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Kamal Nath removed as Madhya Pradesh Congress chief after poll defeat

By, New Delhi /bhopal
Dec 17, 2023 04:47 AM IST

The rejig in the state unit came days after Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge expressed his disappointment over the MP poll result to Nath

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Saturday removed senior leader Kamal Nath as the chief of the Madhya Pradesh unit after the party suffered a drubbing in the recent state elections and appointed Jitu Patwari, 50, in his place, heralding a generational shift.

Kamal Nath with new party’s new MP chief Jitu Patwari (@Jitupatwari)
Kamal Nath with new party’s new MP chief Jitu Patwari (@Jitupatwari)

The rejig in the state unit came days after Kharge expressed his disappointment over the MP poll result to Nath during a meeting in Delhi and told him that a large section of party leaders want him to step down as the chief of the MP unit after the party’s poor performance.

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“Hon’ble Congress President has appointed Shri Jitu Patwari as the president of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee, with immediate effect. The party appreciates the contributions of outgoing PCC President, Shri Kamal Nath. Hon’ble Congress President has also approved the proposal of the appointment of Shri Umang Singhar, as the CLP leader and Shri Hemant Katare as the deputy leader of Madhya Pradesh,” said a communique issued by party general secretary KC Venugopal.

The Congress has now announced rejigs in its units in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, two of the heartland states where it lost elections. All eyes are now on Rajasthan, the third Hindi heartland state where the Congress suffered a defeat, to see if the party opts for a young leadership or maintains the current structure. The new appointments in the MP and Chhattisgarh units are in line with the Congress’s efforts to recalibrate the caste equations with a focus on OBCs and tribals.

The Congress’s top leadership was confident of forming the government in MP but the party could only win 66 of the state’s 230 seats, its worst performance in a decade. The BJP retained power with a thumping majority, winning 163 seats.

Many central and state leaders have zeroed in on a key reason behind the drubbing -- a caustic campaign that spent too much time embroiled in controversy over shrill personal comments.

“The Congress announced multiple schemes, like those for women and free education for students, which could have benefitted us if we had just spoken about them. Instead, it seemed to us, that Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, who ran the show, focused on a negative campaign,” said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Congress leader close to Nath said he was willing to step down as the state unit chief after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

“He was willing to leave the post but not before 2024 Lok Sabha election. He is now willing to contest the Lok Sabha election from Chhindwara in 2024,” the leader said.

Another state unit leader said the change of guard will rejuvenate the party cadre.

“Congress leaders and supporters were disappointed when there was no change in the leadership but this decision has filled us with new energy,” said a senior leader, requesting anonymity.

A senior Congress leader said that there has to be some accountability in Madhya Pradesh after the poll verdict while another argued that the party needs to promote a young leadership in the state just as it did in Telangana.

“The image of a farmer, youngster and OBC leader at the helm will help the Congress in regaining lost ground ,” said KK Mishra, a spokesperson of the party’s MP unit.

Political experts said the Congress should have rejigged the state unit three years ago. “It’s better late than never but the Congress suffered a historic defeat for not accepting the universal rule of generation change. After Congress lost power in 2020, AICC should have removed Kamal Nath because people were unhappy with him. They didn’t act but now they finally decided to hand over Congress to young leaders,” said Girjashankar, a political analyst.

Patwari lost the recent elections from Rau in Indore. He was minister in the Nath government between December 2018 and March 2020.

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