The political crisis in Madhya Pradesh took a dramatic turn on Sunday after Assembly speaker N.P. Prajapati categorically stated that a floor test was not possible unless the 22 rebel members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) present themselves before him.
Prajapati’s statement comes in the wake of Madhya Pradesh governor Lalji Tandon on Saturday asking chief minister Kamal Nath to seek a trust vote conducted by Prajapati on Monday. The developments cap a week of political uncertainty after the Congress-led government came under threat with a section of the party’s legislators rebelling against it.
“I have been waiting for MLAs who have sent their resignations to me through one or the other medium, why are they not contacting me directly? I am worried about what is happening with members of my Assembly. It raises questions on the state of democracy. A final decision will be made about the floor test on Monday," Prajapati told reporters in Bhopal.
Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are keeping their options open about the floor test and the fate of 22 MLAs who have sent in their resignations.
Kamal Nath held a meeting of Congress MLAs at his residence in Bhopal, while senior BJP leaders met in Delhi to strategize about the political developments in Madhya Pradesh. BJP leaders Narendra Singh Tomar, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Dharmendra Pradhan, and Jyotiraditya Scindia met solicitor general Tushar Mehta.
Congress MLAs loyal to Nath, who were camping in Jaipur, returned to Bhopal on Sunday and will be abiding by the party whip asking all its legislators to attend the Assembly session.
The BJP has also issued a similar whip for its MLAs. The Congress has maintained it has numbers to prove its majority, but BJP leaders said on Sunday that with the resignation of rebel MLAs, Congress no longer has the mandate in the House.
Tandon had conveyed in a letter to Nath on Saturday that he was prima facie of the opinion that Nath-led government was in minority and had lost the trust of the House, therefore necessitating an urgent trust vote. The timing of the demand by opposition parties to hold a trust is also interesting because the Budget Session of Madhya Pradesh starts on Monday, 16 March, and Nath would require the MLAs to get budget passed in the assembly.
The trust vote, when it is held, it would be the first key test of survival for the 15-month-old Congress government which has battled a series of setbacks including rebellion by legislators, factional fight and alliance troubles.
Congress had won 114 seats in the 2018 elections in the 230-member Assembly, and formed the government with the support of two MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party, one of the Samajwadi Party, and three independents. BJP had finished a close second with 109 seats and is hopeful of turning the tables in its favour.
While Congress is dealing with the crisis in Madhya Pradesh, trouble is beginning to brew in the state unit of another key state—Gujarat. Four party MLAs from Gujarat, where Congress is in opposition, tendered their resignation on Saturday which has now been accepted by Assembly speaker Rajendra Trivedi. The names of the four MLAs, Trivedi told PTI, would be announced in the assembly session on Monday.
The development comes against the backdrop of the upcoming polls for Rajya Sabha elections where four seats are at contest. The BJP on its own can win two seats. However, if Congress’ house is not in order and cross voting takes place, BJP could be in running for the third seat. BJP has fielded three while Congress has fielded two candidates for the election in four seats.