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Kamal Nath: 'Free' politician

Kamal Nath entered politics courtesy Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's younger son, and he strongly believed in the Gandhi scion's socialist vision. Today, Nath represents everything that is 'free-market'.

Nath, who has won eight elections from the backward and predominantly tribal constituency of Chhindwara, was in 2004 assigned the job of projecting the country's free-market image to the world.

"There's not been a change of heart. Clearly, times change. We needed something in the 50s and 60s to consolidate so this liberalisation was a natural flow from that," he said in a TV interview in 2006.

Nath has been an advocate of special economic zones to boost manufacturing. SEZ, a designated duty free enclave that is treated as foreign territory for trade operations, has been a bone of contention between the Finance and Commerce Ministries over revenue flows, while it has given ruling parties headaches over land acquisition.

His biggest challenge, however, is making these zones relevant in times of recession. Many SEZ developers are seeking de-notification citing the slowdown in the economy and liquidity crunch.

Nath joined the Indian National Congress in 1968 as a youth worker and was elected to Parliament first in 1980. He was first inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as Minister of Environment and Forests in June 1991 and took over as Minister of Commerce and Industry on May 24, 2004.

Image: Kamal Nath
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
Also read: Coverage: India Decides
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