Unable to face a floor test due to insufficient numbers in the Assembly, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath resigned hours before facing the House and opened the door for the BJP to form the next government – barely 15 months after sitting out of power.
The political uncertainty in Madhya Pradesh ended with the Kamal Nath government falling within 15 months in office and the Chief Minister resigning much before facing a Supreme Court-mandated floor test that would have surely exposed the Congress government’s insufficient numbers in the Assembly.
Nath threw in the towel much before the test of strength in the Assembly that would have taken place by a “show of hands”, as directed by the Supreme Court. The Chief Minister’s resignation was preceded by Speaker N P Prajapati’s decision to accept the resignation of 16 rebel Congress legislators who had decided to quit following their group’s leader Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP ahead of Rajya Sabha polls on March 26.
In his final press conference as Chief Minister, Nath played the victim card and accused the BJP of hounding his government and using undemocratic means to destabilise his government. “The BJP was rattled by the development agenda and the new direction given to the state by my government. It though it is defeating me but it was defeating the people of the state,” he said, pointing to the alleged confinement of Congress MLAs in Bengaluru by the BJP since March 9.
“Some people may today feel that they are winning. But there will be a tomorrow as well when the voters of the state will give a verdict against them,” said Nath as he left for the governor’s house to tender his resignation.
The outgoing Chief Minister said the BJP had betrayed him and the voters of the state who had elected the Congress as the largest political party in the Assembly. Presenting a report card of his achievements, Nath said, “He strived to fight the mafia active in the state, waive loans of over 2 lakh farmers and free the state of fear and underdevelopment but he was given just 15 months. “
He also touched upon the Hindutva agenda, saying the BJP did not want the Congress government to score over it by building 1,000 cow shelters and develop a Lord Ram Tourist circuit.
The Kamal Nath government’s fate had been hanging by the thread due to its dwindling numbers in the Assembly but the CM had got a 10-day lifeline with the Speaker adjourning House proceedings till March 26, citing the alarm over coronavirus, when the House was convened on March 16 for the Budget session.
As the 5 pm deadline for the floor test was approaching, Chouhan exuded confidence and said the way had been paved for a new government to by the apex court by laying down the date and time and claimed that the game for the Kamal Nath government’s time had ended.
The high-voltage drama in the corridors of the Assembly drew interest of political analysts who saw a similarity in the developments in MP Assembly and the Karnataka Assembly where also the BJP clawed back to power after sitting in Opposition in due to unfavourable numbers immediately after the state election in the southern state.
Just as in MP, the twists in Karnataka power game saw BJP dislodging the JD(S)-Congress government within an year and a half of elections. In Karnataka, too, the ruling coalition’s MLAs resigned from the Assembly to pave the way for BS Yediyurappa to become CM. In MP, Chouhan seems set to lead the next government as the new Chief Minister.
The end of Kamal Nath era in MP is linked to Scindia’s decision to desert the Congress. Many analysts described Scindia’s new-found love for the BJP as Ghar Vapsi – homecoming – as they recalled how his father Madhavrao had started his Parliamentary career as a Jan Sangh MP in 1971 before switching to the Congress.
While Congress and the BJP traded barbs over the alleged horse trading, political analysts said the exit of Nath would also have a bearing on the March 26 elections for the three Rajya Sabha seats in the state, tilting the balance in favour of the BJP.
Political analysts says, for one RS seat, a candidate needs to get at least 58 MLAs’ support. The fight is over the second seat that the BJP is eyeing – as one seat each is already assured to the Congress and the BJP. Scindia may emerge as the second RS BJP member from the MP as the number dynamics in the Assembly have changed with his switch to the BJP and the subsequent resignation of his 22 loyalists from the Congress.
Scindia and his loyalist legislators had alleged corruption in the Nath government. Justifying their exit from the Congress, they said that the Chief Minister had failed to waive farm loans as promised in the polls manifesto and also ignored aspirations of young Congress MLAs who wanted to play a bigger role in the government, a charge denied by Nath.
On the eve of the big day of show of strength, Digvijay Singh said that he tried to explain the Nath government’s position to the voters in Scindia’s former constituency but he was not allowed to meet them.
Ahead of the D-day, analysts were speculating about the name of the new chief minister. They said Chouhan could be the front-runner for the CM’s post but surprises may still spring up given that Amit Shah is known for shock treatment politics and prop up new faces as Chief Ministers. The name of Thanwar Chand Gehlot was the only competitor to Chouhan to occupy the CM’s seat in the new government. The possibility of Jyotiraditya Scindia playing a dominant role in the new dispensation is a distinct possibility. The Chambal and Gwalior region’s politics is also set to change with Chouhan, Tomar and Scindia likely to joining hands to power the BJP after this new marriage of the former royal with the BJP.
The aspirations of Scindia loyalists, who just resigned, will depend upon the BJP machinery’s efficiency to get them re-elected to the Assembly . The six Scindia loyalists who resigned from the Kamal Nath Cabinet may also get rehabilitated in the new Cabinet.
Analysts said the by-election to fill the vacant posts in the Assembly would be a big headache for the BJP as it is likely to deal with 44 aspirants – 22 Congress MLAs who have resigned and 22 BJP nominees who had lost to these 22 Congress leaders in the last Assembly polls.
The BJP’s surprise return to power in the Hindi heartland has come close to the saffron party losing power in Maharashtra to the Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP alliance and is likely to boost themorale of cadre. The fall of the Congress in MP may further strengthen the BJP’s team of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and pave the way for a stronger show in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.