While winding up his speech against foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member of Rajya Sabha V Maitreyan thanked all those who supported his stand and said the government had committed a blunder.
Summarising the outcome of the debate, he declared, "Anand Sharma has lost; but Kamal Nath has won."
The expression flooding the faces of the two ministers following the comment was a study in contrast. While Commerce Minister Sharma wore a rueful smile, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath just could not contain his joy. He tried hard to look modest but failed miserably, and then, swaggered out of the House in the manner of a pop star, as his colleagues slapped his back and sought to shake his hand.
A reporter asked him what time he wakes up in the morning. His answer was, "Ask me what time I go to sleep".
For most of the previous week, Nath was wearing down telephone lines and burning rubber, as he visited personally, one by one, all those he thought could be naysayers to persuade them to vote for the motion.
Little wonder then that Congress leader and principal troubleshooter Ahmad Patel, when asked how the party had won over Mayawati, said, "Ask Kamal Nath".
In his conversation with the Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Nath explained that if Mayawati really wanted her pet project -- reservation for Dalits in promotions -- she needed to show that the Opposition was weak, effete and just a lot of sound and fury. Otherwise, the 117th Constitution Amendment Bill would never go through. To Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, he said the defeat of the FDI proposal would damage Bharatiya Janata Party and its constituency of small traders the most.
Everything went according to script and the government proved on the floor of the House that even a combined Opposition had not been able to derail it.
After the FDI vote, Nath has become the ultimate facilitator. But that hasn't detracted him from his other duty -- that of the urban development minister. He makes it a point to go to his office in Nirman Bhavan everyday where he can be found poring away over files in the evening. Every person he meets is filed away as a contact in a vast database.
And, the sun rises and sets with his constituency, Chhindwara, which he has represented nine times in the Lok Sabha. He takes such good care of it that BJP calls it a 'Union Territory' in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Those who have seen him during the Emergency remember him as the unlovely sidekick of Sanjay Gandhi. But Nath has grown not just in experience but also in stature. Rahul Gandhi referred to him by name at the Surajkund Chintan Shivir as the man who had complete grip over his constituency and suggested his qualities were worth emulating. Other colleagues praised him as well. This is rare in a political party.
But a swallow doesn't make a summer. Nath's ultimate challenge is going to be the budget session when the government has to ward off showers that will keep threatening to rain on its parade. If there is anyone who can prevent this, it is Nath -- his control over geographical features is proven.