Jitu Patwari's Appointment as PCC President in Madhya Pradesh Was Long Overdue

"The central leadership will be more at ease with Patwari compared to Kamal Nath," a senior party leader told me.

4 min read
Hindi Female

50-year-old Jitu Patwari has been made president of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) in Madhya Pradesh (MP). He is replacing Kamal Nath, and it is being termed as a generational change in the party's state level leadership.

Patwari was about seven years old when nine-time MP (Member of Parliament) and two-time MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) Kamal Nath won his first Lok Sabha election in 1980. Nath, who is now 77, was the contemporary of the late Arjun Singh, the heartland's veteran Congress leader. Singh’s son Ajay is 68 and an MLA from Churhat in the Sidhi district.

The idea behind mentioning the age of the aforementioned Congressmen is to show that Patwari belongs to a completely separate generation of leaders. Also, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Shivraj Singh Chouhan was 48 when he started leading the state as chief minister (CM) in 2005.

The Importance of Young OBC Face

An OBC (Other Backward Classes) leader from the Malwa region of western MP, Patwari is an LLB graduate who is expected to regroup the party and motivate its karyakartas four months ahead of the 2024 general elections. It is an uphill task, especially after the drubbing in the recently held Assembly elections in which the party was reduced to 66 seats, its worst-ever performance in the state. Patwari himself lost from the Rau constituency by over 35,000 votes.

Besides him, the party has also appointed Umang Singhar, a tribal, as the Congress Legislative Party leader and the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. Hemant Katare, who is a Brahmin, has been made the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If the BJP has gone with a combination of OBC, SC (Scheduled Caste), and Brahmin as the CM and the two deputy CMs respectively (Mohan Yadav, Jagdish Devda, and Rajendra Shukla), the Congress has chosen an OBC, tribal, and Brahmin combination.

On 19 December, in a show of strength, Patwari mobilised a large number of party workers in Bhopal while taking over as the PCC president. Keeping up the tradition in today's political climate, Patwari, clad in a saffron kurta, performed a puja at the Mahakal temple in Ujjain before he left for Bhopal to take on his new assignment.

Given the importance of the OBC vote in present-day Indian politics, Patwari was the best choice available for the Congress in MP, a senior party leader told me. “He is aggressive but arrogant too and needs to be unassuming and polite. He also speaks the Hindi of the heartland that connects him immediately with the aam aadmi”, he said.


Proximity to Rahul Gandhi

Patwari is also considered to be close to Rahul Gandhi, something he earned in 2017 during a demonstration held by the Congress party in Mandsaur following a firing incident that killed five farmers.

When Rahul Gandhi was stopped from visiting the town by the police, he rode on a motorcycle behind Patwari. Their bike was also stopped, but the ride established a good relationshi between Patwari and Rahul Gandhi. The former was also the convenor of Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra along with Digvijay Singh. When Kamal Nath was the state party president for about five years, Jitu, who first became an MLA in 2013, was one of the acting presidents.

After being appointed as the PCC chief, Patwari said, “This is a huge challenge and we are ready to meet it. I believe in the word hum (we), not mein (I). We have 40 per cent of the votes with us and we need to take it to 51 per cent, which is the challenge." He was referring to Congress party's vote share in the 2023 Assembly elections. When he was reminded of the formidable presence of the BJP in Bhopal and Delhi under the leadership of PM Modi, he added, “Even Atalji was having a good run, but he was eventually defeated."

“I have my tasks defined for me. The BJP has come to power with announcements like Rs 3000 for the Ladli Behna Yojana, MSP (minimum support price) for wheat at Rs 2,700 per quintal, paddy at Rs 3,100, and 3 lakh jobs, etc. It is a long list. My job is to ensure that the government doesn’t forget this and the people receive all that was promised. This is the USP (unique selling point) of a worker like me. That is why I have been put in charge," Patwari asserted.


The Generational Gap is Finally Filled

Patwari is expected to energise Congress workers by hitting the streets to show the party’s presence which was earlier not possible with Kamal Nath, a senior Congress leader told me. “Besides, the central leadership will be more comfortable dealing with Patwari compared to Nath,” he claimed.

Nath’s strength, who has won the most elections within the Congress, often became his and the party's weakness because it led to a communication gap with the central leadership.

For example, in the MP Assembly elections, another senior party functionary explained to me, Nath’s views would prevail when it came to poll plans, strategies, election surveys, and the selection of candidates while the centre would hardly have any say. But in the case of Patwari, it will be a whole new equation with Rahul Gandhi.

Kamal Nath is probably one of the last few very senior leaders left in the Congress who belongs to the era of Sanjay Gandhi, having worked with Indira Gandhi, and having to also work under Rahul Gandhi. So, it seems like the generation gap is finally being filled, albeit a little late.

(The author is a senior journalist based in Madhya Pradesh. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  Jitu Patwari 

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