The political drama being played out in Madhya Pradesh for the last four days may all add up to nothing once the curtains fall on the Rajya Sabha polls scheduled for March 26. However, what the farcical goings-on have revealed is the shakiness and continued instability of the 15-month old Kamal Nath regime.
There is little doubt that behind the latest political capers is the BJP’s desire to retain two of the three RS seats it currently holds, but can win only one given its reduced strength in the state assembly. To hold on to the second it needs eight votes which it just cannot muster barring some blood-letting (read cross voting). To understand, let us get the numbers straight.
Three of the 11 RS seats from MP are up for grabs with the tenure of Digvijaya Singh (Congress), Prabhat Jha and Satyanarayan Jatia (both BJP) ending on April 12. Two vacancies have brought down the effective strength of the state assembly to 228 members of which 114 belong to the Congress and 107 to the BJP. The Congress, however, has managed to fortify its slim majority with the support of the two BSP, one SP, and four independents, making for a combined strength of 121.
Both Congress and BJP thus have 58 first preference votes to win a seat each. For the second seat the Congress has 56 votes plus the possible backing of an Independent who is a minister. The latter, however, has said on record that he will vote for anyone as long as he is minister. This BJP is left with just 49 second preference votes. Therefore, going by hard numbers it has absolutely no chance of winning a second seat. Prodding the party to push its luck is the infighting within the ruling Congress, and inducing one or two to vote beyond party lines.
The BJP’s hopes are anchored in the resignation of one disaffected Congress MLA (Hardeep Singh Dung), the flight of four Independents to Bangalore, and three from BSP and SP to Delhi. The gossip mills began churning full time when former CM and outgoing RS MP Digvijaya Singh accused the BJP of trying to buy out legislators from the treasury benches for outlandish sums ranging from Rs 25-100 crores, even whisking away SP-BSP MLAs to Gurgaon for negotiations. The MLAs in question, however, gave the lie to his claims by alleging that the ageing leader had lost his mental balance, and that they had gone off their own accord. The fact that frontline BJP leaders from the state like Shivraj S Chouhan, Narottam Mishra, and Opposition leader Gopal Bhargava were also camping in Delhi encouraged the wagging of tongues.
Those in the know blame Digvijaya Singh for sowing the seeds of doubt and suspicion. He is desperate for another RS term, but knows he is not getting it. Hence, the efforts to get some political mileage by seeming to appear as the protector of party interests. Some allege that he may indirectly be egging on a few disgruntled MLAs to defy the whip in case his rival, Jyotiraditya Scindia, is fielded. Which he may well be to neutralize his regularly irregular threats of seeking other avenues after the loss of his home borough, Guna, in the 2019 LS poll.
The BJP, on its part, can hardly be blamed for trying to make political capital of the situation. Many Congress MLAs are not happy with the corporate work style of chief minister Kamal Nath. He is difficult to meet and keeps himself aloof. What they want never gets done. There are 28 ministers in the state, all of cabinet rank. But the two BSP and lone SP legislators have been desperate for a share of the power pie.
Corruption is rampant, the transfer-posting industry active, and the state’s coffers scraping rock bottom. Not all the CM’s efforts to play the soft Hindutva card by promising a clutch of gaushalas in every district, building the Ram Van Gaman Yatra route off Shahdol, and declaring himself a proud Hanuman bhakt seem to have impressed. The average voter is only too well aware that hidden behind is the party’s eternal minority appeasement agenda.
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.