Bhopal: The Congress’ failure to commit a Rajya Sabha ticket to Jyotiraditya Scindia wasn’t the trigger for him to switch his loyalty to the BJP, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has suggested. Scindia, he said, had been in touch with Chouhan and other BJP leaders long before the RS nomination issue came up.
“Nahi, approach kya? Ismein toh charcha chali, baatcheet hui, kuchh unka mann banaa, kuch idhar charchein hue, aur unko lagaa ki wahan theekh nahi hai, toh sidhanto ki khatir aaye (Who approached whom! There were discussions; he made up his mind a little, some discussions happened here; then he thought it wasn’t fine there and so he came here for the sake of his principles),” Chouhan told ThePrint.
He also said Scindia was upset over the fact that promises made by the Congress during the 2018 elections were not met and that the Kamal Nath government was “indulging in corruption”.
“He has taken a stand, his conscience was in trouble, that promises are not being fulfilled. He also mentioned the environment of corruption, when he saw that this government is breaking every record of corruption, that’s why he took a stand,” Chouhan said in an interview in Bhopal.
“He served a part for years and left it to join the BJP, which is a cadre-based party and follows an ideology. But it includes everyone in the family.
“Those who had joined earlier have served the people through the party too, Scindiaji will also do that. There was a discussion, and he joined,” Chouhan added.
On Tuesday, a BJP delegation led by Chouhan met Governor Lalji Tandon to yet again press for a floor test. After an earlier meeting with Chouhan, Tandon had Saturday night called for a floor test in a letter to Nath. He reiterated the call Monday, when he wanted the vote to be held, but the House was adjourned until 26 March amid the coronavirus pandemic.
There has been speculation about the numerical strength of the Kamal Nath government since it was hit with 22 resignations from Congress MLAs, including six ministers, earlier this month.
While the resignations of the ministers have been accepted, those of the remaining 16 MLAs, who are lodged at a Bengaluru resort, remain pending.
The MP assembly has 230 seats but two are vacant following the death of the incumbents. Before the current political crisis in the state, the Congress had 114 MLAs with the BJP tally standing at 107.
The acceptance of the six ministers’ resignations has effectively reduced the strength of the House to 222 seats and brought the majority mark to 112.
‘A minority government’
Speaking about his meeting with the governor Tuesday, Chouhan reiterated his claim that the Kamal Nath government is in minority.
“We had gone to governor because this government is in minority. You must have seen we have presented 106 MLAs. The Congress just has 92 and it is clear that the government has lost the majority,” he added.
“According to numbers available in the assembly, we are in majority. But despite that, they are doing appointments to constitutional posts. Today, they appointed the women’s commission president, before that they appointed president of the youth commission. Then there is the electricity regulatory authority, they have done 22-25 appointments like that,” he said.
Chouhan said they had asked the governor to look into the matter of appointments urgently. “Once an appointment is made, it cannot be changed by a new government for five years. We had gone to the governor to raise this objection, saying, without your approval, they cannot appoint anyone to constitutional posts. That’s why they need to stop… the governor has assured us that he will talk to them,” he added. “He also said he had no information about it.”
When asked about Nath’s claim that the BJP had given a no-confidence motion proposal to the assembly speaker, Chouhan denied it.
“Why would we bring a no-confidence motion? The governor is asking them to prove their majority. A no-confidence motion is meant to expose the government, that they have done some wrong, floor test is to prove the majority,” he said.
“Governor, who is the constitutional head of the state, has directed them for a trust vote. There will be a one line of proposal, and the decision will be out in 15 minutes,” he said.
Chouhan, who also serves as BJP national vice-president, has served three terms as chief minister. Asked if he would be chief minister once again if the BJP is able to form the government, Chouhan said the decision will be taken by the party.
On the Congress’ claim that the BJP has kept their MLAs at a Bengaluru resort, Chouhan retorted: “Why have they kept their MLAs in Marriott (Bhopal)? Our MLAs are there (in a resort) on their own. They have got some free time, so discussions are on, some training is being done and after two days, everyone will get busy,” he said.
Responding to the Congress’ allegations that the BJP was keeping its 22 “rebel” MLAs hostage, Singh said all of them were staying in Bengaluru because they were scared to be back in Bhopal.
“The whole country is watching, they are saying they are not hostage, they are scared for their life in Bhopal. They have taken a big decision, they have left the membership of the assembly,” Chouhan said.
“We work hard to win elections, and are elected for five years. They must be feeling suffocated, that’s why they resigned from the assembly’s membership. They don’t want to be with such a corrupt government,” he said.
Chouhan said CM Kamal Nath had been running the government like a private company. Offering “friendly advice”, he said Nath should exit gracefully by resigning.
“We were disciplined in the assembly but losers always make excuses. BJP people were silent and disciplined in the assembly but they were making fun in the name of coronavirus. Kamal Nathji must stop making fun of corona. Tamasha banaa diya (made it a drama). Ye jyotshi hai kya, ya Bhagwan, ki inhein pata hai March 26 ko corona khatam ho jayega (are they astrologers? How do they know coronavirus will end by 26 March?),” he said.
When asked about reports that the 16 rebel MLAs were not giving a clear answer on whether they will join the BJP, Chouhan said what mattered was that their resignation had reduced the government to a minority.
“The effective strength has been reduced to 205 due to their resignation that’s important. What they will do later on (join BJP or not) is something they will decide,” he said.