Bhopal: Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath, who steered his party to victory in Madhya Pradesh, was on Monday sworn in as its 18th Chief Minister, bringing to an end 15 years of BJP rule in the state which had become the saffron party’s stronghold.
The nine-time MP and former union Minister was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Anandiben Patel at a function held at the Jambori Maidan on a day the Delhi High Court convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, sparking calls that Kamal Nath should not be made Chief Minister.
Accusing him of having had a hand in the riots in Delhi, the BJP and Akali Dal demanded that Kamal Nath should not be made the Chief Minister.
Asked about the demand, he told the media that he had been a Minister at the Centre in 1991 and later too but wondered why demands were being made now. “There has been no charge. There has been no case. Why now? I see a hidden hand.”
The 72-year-old Kamal Nath, who represented Chhindwara for nine terms in the Lok Sabha, was the only one to take the oath even as the other contender to the Chief Minister’s post, Jyotiraditya Scindia, was present. The ceremony was held an hour behind schedule at 2.30 p.m.
The brief ceremony was attended by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda, outgoing Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, another former BJP Chief Minister Babulal Gaur and a galaxy of national leaders in a show of opposition unity ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Among the opposition stalwarts present were NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Karnataka counterpart H.D. Kumaraswamy, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi, JMM chief Hemant Soren, DMK leaders M.K. Stalin, T.R. Balu and Kanimozhi, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Shard Yadav and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetti.
Congress leaders who were present included Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his deputy Sachin Pilot, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, Puducherry Chief Minster V. Narayanaswamy, former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Minister D.K, Shivakumar, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, UP Congress President Raj Babbar and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda
BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, whose parties have extended support to the Congress government, were conspicuous by their absence.
Earlier, Kamal Nath told the media that he had invited West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee personally but she expressed her inability because she was occupied with the rituals in connection with her mother’s death anniversary.
Before the ceremony started, Kamal Nath greeted the leaders on the stage and held Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s hand and greeted the people in which Scindia also joined. The scenes were lapped up by the hundreds of Congress activists and supporters gathered there.
Representatives of various religions including saffron-clad saints were present at the function. Among them was the ‘computer’ baba who was offered a Minister of State status by the Chouhan government.