Several Nath loyalist MLAs reach Delhi amid talk of switch to BJP; Digvijaya says won’t happen

PTI | Bhopal | Updated: 18-02-2024 20:21 IST | Created: 18-02-2024 20:21 IST
Several Nath loyalist MLAs reach Delhi amid talk of switch to BJP; Digvijaya says won’t happen
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Around half a dozen Madhya Pradesh MLAs loyal to senior Congress leader Kamal Nath reached Delhi on Sunday, accentuating the speculation that he and his MP son Nakul Nath are set to join the ruling BJP.

In MP capital Bhopal, Nath's Congress colleague Digvijaya Singh expressed confidence that his "old friend" won't forsake the party from where he began his political journey, even as a picture of a flag, with 'Jai Shri Ram' written on it, purportedly flying at Nath's Delhi home provided enough fodder to social media users.

According to party insiders, MP Congress chief Jitu Patwari remained busy through Saturday establishing contact with his MLAs and telling them that Nath and his son won't cross over to the BJP. Of those MLAs who have followed Nath to Delhi, three are from Chhindwara, while another three from the region are set to leave for Delhi, sources close to the veteran leader said earlier.

These MLAs were not answering calls, with some Congress insiders claiming Nath loyalist and former state minister Lakhan Ghangoriya was also camping with them in Delhi.

Nath (77), a nine-time MP from Chhindwara and currently MLA from the seat, is a former chief minister who was removed as the party's state president following the Congress' dismal performance in the November Assembly polls. The party also did not pick Nath, an astute politician who had worked with three generations of the Gandhi family, as its nominee from MP for Rajya Sabha polls. In 1979, then prime minister Indira Gandhi had described him as her third son when she introduced him to the people of Chhindwara at a public meeting ahead of the 1980 Lok Sabha polls. Nath's friendship with Indira Gandhi's son Sanjay Gandhi was a much-discussed topic in Congress circles then.

Deepak Saxena, former MP Minister and Nath loyalist, told reporters in Chhindwara he was hurt by the way the latter was removed as state unit chief following the Assembly debacle.

"We want our leader to be accorded all respect. Whatever decision he takes, we will be with him," Saxena said.

Another Nath loyalist, former state minister Sajjan Singh Verma, wrote 'Jai Shri Ram' in his X profile. "I will follow Kamal Nath," Verma, a former MP, had told reporters on Saturday.

The Nath camp was making efforts to get the support of 23 MLAs so that anti-defection laws don't apply to them, party insiders claimed. The Congress has 66 seats in the 230-member Assembly.

"In case one-third of the MLAs switch over, then anti-defection laws will not apply," MP High Court advocate Rakesh Pandey told PTI.

If the rumours surrounding Nath turn out to be true, it would mean another big blow to the Congress, which recently saw a high-profile exit in former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan. In Bhopal, Digvijaya Singh said that the veteran leader started his political journey from the Congress and expressed confidence that his "old friend" won't leave it.

Singh said he and other Congress leaders were in contact with former MP chief minister Nath.

"We all used to consider Kamal Nath the third son of late prime minister Indira ji (after Sanjay Gandhi and ex-PM Rajiv Gandhi)," the Rajya Sabha member told reporters here.

"Kamal Nath ji has always been with the Congress. He is a true Congress leader... He has got all posts, including chief minister, union minister, AICC general secretary and MP Congress chief," Singh said.

Nath's character is such that he won't yield to the pressure of central agencies like ED, I-T or CBI, he said.

"The biggest denial of all such speculation is that Kamal Nath has still not joined the BJP or resigned from the Congress," Singh said.

Nath arrived in the national capital on Saturday afternoon. His son and Chhindwara MP Nakul Nath dropped Congress from his bio on social media. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP won 28 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats, except Chhindwara.

Meanwhile, the state Congress chief was busy telling his party MLAs that Nath wouldn't join BJP, said party insiders. Recalling India Gandhi's "third son" utterance for Nath, Patwari had said on Saturday, "Can you dream of the third son of Indiraji (Gandhi) joining the BJP?" He said Nath stood behind the Congress like a rock during its bad patch when the government led by him was toppled by Scindia. In March 2020, Jyotiraditya Scindia and several MLAs loyal to him had switched over to the BJP, bringing down the Congress government led by Nath.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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