‘Modi Govt’s Agenda is to Divide Society’: Kamal Nath to The Quint

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath spoke to Raghav Bahl, editor-in-chief of The Quint and BloombergQuint.

Updated12 Jan 2020, 04:57 PM IST
4 min read

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath spoke to Raghav Bahl, editor-in-chief of The Quint and BloombergQuint, on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the fallout the of anti-CAA protests, whether the Modi government has misread the pulse of the nation and Nath’s transition from Centre to State.

“Modi and his government’s one point agenda – not even a one-and-a-half point agenda – is to divide society. Anything which divides society, Modi will do,” said Nath when asked whether the Modi government has misread the pace of the their decisions.

Nath also spoke on Congress’ organisational churn, saying that he believes Rahul Gandhi needs to return as Congress president and that he “needs to be persuaded to come back.”

Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:

'CAA Defeats Ethos of India'

Categorically stating that Madhya Pradesh will not implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, Nath said:

“Anything which sends a signal of dividing the country... many years ago when I was in the Youth Congress, sitting with Indira Gandhi, she got very angry with me. She said, ‘In this country, you never rock the boat. What is the ethos of our country? The ethos of our country is harmony, is brotherhood.”

He further questioned the need for implementing CAA in the country, saying the Act “defeats the whole ethos of the country and the bedrock of the institution.”

“What is the need for CAA? The need is employment... agriculture. What was the mad rush, what was the emergency for which your had to bring in legislation, which even by wrong interpretation divides the country. Was there such a crisis?”
Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh CM

On the Political Fallout of Anti-CAA Protests

Do the anti-CAA protests strengthen BJP’s narrative of politics? Nath doesn’t think so. According to him, the CAA protests are widespread because “people are feeling thugged.”

“People are feeling thugged. What is the current challenge? Unemployment. Because the youth of the country is very different, from you and I. He is connected to the Internet, he knows what’s happening and he is looking for a job. He knows there is no chance of a job because Modi doesn’t talk of a job. He’ll talk of NRC, he will talk of CAA. The youth says, How does that affect me?”
Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh CM

Nath also admitted that in 2019, BJP presented a narrative through their campaign which people found “attractive.” He said:

“Let’s remember, rural India is much smarter than Lutyens’ Delhi. They are smart, they understand the game. They made a mistake in May 2019, which they have admitted... Because of the BJP narrative, which people found attractive. Our narrative was not good enough, I have no harm in admitting it. So, the people chose BJP’s narrative. But do you think people are fools? They are feeling thugged.”

'PM Modi’s Political Capital Depleting'

Speaking of the Assembly election results in Maharashtra and Haryana, Nath said PM Modi’s name has seen a “depletion in political capital.” He said:

“The tone has been set, in Maharashtra and Haryana. In the parliamentary elections, they won 79 seats in Haryana and with such a large vote share. What happened, five months later? Do you think that people were going to vote in the name of Khatter? It was Modi’s name. It was absolutely Modi’s depletion in his capital. I have never seen such depletion in capital in all my political experience. That, suddenly you deplete so much.”

'PM Modi’s One-Point Agenda is to Divide Society'

On being asked if the Modi government has misread the pace of its policy decisions – bringing in abrogation of Article 370 and Citizenship (Amendment) Act in relentless succession – Nath replied that the Modi government’s agenda is “to divide society.”

“Anything which divides society, Modi will do. His game is to divide the society. Because Modi is still in the world of May 2019, where he said that ‘I was able to divide society in the name of nationalism, in the name of Pakistan, in the name of surgical strikes. In the short span of the campaign, I was able to sell that. Now, I will sell this and lay the foundations for the next elections’. But those foundations have to work. Why didn’t the foundations work in Maharashtra, why didn’t they work in Jharkhand?”
Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh CM

'Rahul Gandhi Should Definitely Come Back'

But what about the Congress? When faced with a question on almost every political pundit’s mind, Nath said that the “Congress is working on the leadership in the party.” He said:

“After May 2019 elections, there had to be a lull. We can’t start the next morning, by saying we are going hammer and tongs at you. Now is the time to lay out the agenda for the Congress party. And just today, there was a meeting of the Congress party in Delhi of the CWC, to lay out what kind of organisational strength we need. We must understand, politics has changed.”

On the question of Gandhi returning as Congress president, Nath said that he has “to be persuaded” to do so. He said:

“Rahul Gandhi has his own ideas, he has his own perspectives. Why not? And to be fair to Gandhi, he had just, you know, become the president of the party for one or two years against Modi’s, I don’t know how many years, as president.”

State vs Centre: Which Does Nath Prefer?

Having been in central roles in the Centre over the years, is Nath feeling confined in his role as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh? Not really. As Nath says, he is enjoying his stint in the “micro politics of state.” He said:

“There is one basic difference. In the state, there’s politics of the micro, at the Centre, there’s politics of the macro. And you’re focused on one portfolio. Here, if there’s a rape, people are asking you questions. If there’s an accident or some bus falls into the river, (people ask) why did the bus fall in the river? What is wrong with the road? So, it’s micro... it has a thrill of its own.”

Watch the video for the full interview.

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Published: 12 Jan 2020, 04:39 PM IST
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