Bhopal: The polity of Madhya Pradesh remained on edge Monday as an adjournment put off the trust vote for now but the BJP moved the Supreme Court with a plea to test the Kamal Nath government’s majority within 48 hours.
Both the Congress and the BJP, meanwhile, tried to keep their MLAs safe amid rumours about mutual poaching bids by the two parties as they struggle for power in the central India state. Even so, each of the two parties claimed to have the numbers to lead the state. After a meeting with Governor Lalji Tandon around 8.30 pm Monday, Nath told reporters that he was ready to prove his government’s majority. “But the 16 MLAs held captive in Bengaluru should be released,” he added. “We have the majority.”
While the Congress is currently in office, it finds itself on shaky footing in the wake of 22 MLAs, including six ministers, resigning.
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 resignation of the six ministers was accepted by the assembly Speaker Saturday, which has effectively reduced the strength of the House to 222 and brought the majority mark to 112.
Following a meeting with a BJP delegation led by former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon had called for a floor test Monday morning in a letter written to Nath Saturday night.
However, the trust vote could not take place as the assembly was adjourned until 26 March over the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the BJP is hoping for relief from the Supreme Court, which is likely to take up its plea Tuesday.
Keeping the flock together
When the trust vote couldn’t take place Monday morning, a team of BJP MLAs led by Chouhan approached the governor once again.
Upset over his “direction” not being implemented, Tandon again wrote to the chief minister, asking him to face a floor test Tuesday. The BJP subsequently approached the Supreme Court, seeking a floor test within 48 hours.
The BJP has been maintaining that the Kamal Nath government stands reduced to a minority while it has the numbers to regain office in the state.
However, sources claimed that the BJP was worried about possible defections from its camp as it was keeping its MLAs — who had just returned Monday morning from a stay in Haryana amid the crisis in the state — in a Bhopal hotel.
“All the MLAs who came in the morning were kept in a hotel and brought in buses directly to the assembly. There are some who are in touch with the Congress,” said a BJP source.
Congress sources also claimed that some BJP MLAs were in touch with them. “There are some MLAs who are upset over the recent happenings and the way the BJP is going about things. Many are willing to switch over,” said a senior Congress leader.
On Monday, when all the BJP MLAs went to meet the governor to show their majority, one, Narayan Tripathi, was absent. According to sources, Tripathi had had a meeting with Chief Minister Kamal Nath and was likely to support the Congress. The Congress also has the support of four Independent MLAs and three legislators of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
However, when asked about Tripathi, BJP state president V.D. Sharma denied reports of his departure.
“Tripathi ji is very much with the BJP. His mother passed away recently. The BJP is a sensitive party and we understand such things,” he told ThePrint. “Kamal Nath is doing politics over it. He told us he has taken leave and is at home.”
Meanwhile, the BJP is keeping its MLAs at a hotel in Bhopal amid fears of a poaching bid by the Congress.
“There’s definitely a threat… The way the situation is in Bhopal, we want our MLAs to stay put in one place. We have arranged a hotel for them to stay,” said a senior BJP functionary.
Sources claimed that the BJP was also keeping a close watch on the 16 Congress rebels lodged in Bengaluru. “Some of the senior BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh were sent to Bengaluru Monday evening, including Arvind Bhadoria. They went there on a special flight,” said a senior BJP leader.
Another BJP leader said they were also in touch with some Independent candidates.
The Congress had also flown its MLAs to Jaipur amid the defections, but the legislators were brought back to Bhopal Sunday evening. They are also lodged at a local hotel. The rebels in Bengaluru have refused to travel to Bhopal citing fears about the “law and order situation” there.
BJP has sights set on SC hearing
Concerned about the possibility of the governor pushing for President’s rule in the state, two Madhya Pradesh ministers were sent to Delhi Monday to discuss the court case and future strategy with the senior Congress leadership.
The BJP leadership now has its sights set on Tuesday’s hearing in the Supreme Court. “The governor has written for a floor test again and if they don’t follow that, the government can be dismissed by him. We have the numbers and are confident of forming the government,” said another BJP leader.
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