Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. (HT)
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. (HT)

BJP, riding high, puts Kamal Nath on notice in Madhya Pradesh

  • BJP says it will ask governor Anandiben Patel to convene a special session of the legislative assembly to test the Congress’ strength
  • MP was among the largest states to come under Congress rule last year, when it ousted a 15-year-old BJP govt

NEW DELHI : New Delhi: Pumped up by predictions of a landslide win for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh on Monday said the Congress-led state government should prove its majority—a demand the Congress shot down as a “desperate" act.

In a surprising statement, BJP said it would ask governor Anandiben Patel to convene a special session of the legislative assembly to test the Congress’ strength. The ruling party responded that it was confident of its numbers.

Madhya Pradesh was among the largest states to come under Congress rule last year, when it ousted a 15-year-old BJP government—one of the party’s biggest wins since the 2014 Lok Sabha humiliation.

The Congress has the backing of regional parties in the state and retaining their support would be crucial to the state government’s stability.

“I am writing a letter to the governor for convening a special session of Madhya Pradesh assembly shortly. We want discussion on important issues like the farm loan waiver and (to) test the government strength," leader of the opposition in the state assembly and senior BJP leader Gopal Bhargava told PTI in Bhopal.

The party claims that at least seven Congress members of the legislative assembly have been in touch with BJP.

BJP leaders claimed that the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh was a “forced coalition" with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and that the two parties would not stay together for long.

“The present focus of the BJP leadership is on government formation in Delhi after counting takes place on 23 May. Issues related to Madhya Pradesh are not of immediate concern for the party leadership," a senior BJP leader based in Bhopal said on condition of anonymity. “It is true that a section of Congress MLAs are unhappy with the functioning of the government in Madhya Pradesh, but no immediate step will be taken by the BJP."

Out of the 230 seats in the assembly, Congress won 114 in 2018 and formed the government with the support of two legislators of BSP and one from the Samajwadi Party. BJP was a close second with 109 seats. There are four independents in the assembly.

“We are very confident of our numbers. The BJP has been attempting to create such narratives ever since we were sworn in," a senior Congress leader from Bhopal said, on condition of anonymity. “If they claim they are in touch with our MLAs, then the anti-poaching law will apply. The numbers are stacked in our favour and there is no threat."

The Congress is, however, worried about a recent statement by BSP chief Mayawati warning of consequences after her party’s Guna Lok Sabha candidate joined the Congress just ahead of polling.

“The Congress will have to pay a heavy price for this when time comes. Due to similar acts, we brought down the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government," Mayawati said earlier this month.

Officially, the Congress maintains there is nothing to worry about. “They have written a letter, but we are confident of our majority," Shobha Oza, chief of the Congress’ media cell in Madhya Pradesh, said in an interview. “Kamal Nath has proved we have support twice during the election of speaker and deputy speaker. The BJP is desperate and is hence engaging in such things."

The political situation in Madhya Pradesh is important because the Congress has returned to power in the state after a gap of 15 years and the two rival parties are in a direct contest.

BJP’s loss in the assembly elections was largely due to rural distress, demonetization and the implementation of the goods and services tax.

“We are confident of doing well in the Lok Sabha elections in the state," said the BJP leader cited earlier. “If the exit polls are true and BJP does well, then it will signify that people of the state have voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and have made a clear distinction between national leadership and state politics."