Bhopal: The Budget session of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly concluded on a disappointing note for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday after the Kamal Nath-led Congress government not only won a division of votes, but also managed the support of two MLAs of the saffron party.
The voting came hours after Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargav claimed that the Congress government in the state would collapse in 24 hours if the BJP’s “No. 1 or No.2” (senior leadership) issued an order to that effect. He had also dared Kamal Nath to undertake a trust vote in the Assembly.
After the division of votes on the Penal Code Amendment Bill was ordered by Speaker NP Prajapati on the demand of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) lawmaker Sanjiv Singh Sanju, Congress MLAs went out to cast their votes, while legislators of the saffron party stayed put in the House.
The Speaker then said 122 MLAs voted in favour of the amendment while no one voted against it. In the 230-member House, the Kamal Nath-led Congress has 114 MLAs, the BJP has 109. Four independents, two BSP MLAs and a lone Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmaker extended support to the government.
By simple mathematics, the vote division should have fetched 120 votes for the Congress government, but it got two more votes. Soon after, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Govind Singh said two BJP MLAs had voted in favour of the government.
Outside the House, Law Minister PC Sharma revealed the names of the two extra voters — BJP’s Beohari and Maihar MLAs Sharad Kol and Narayan Tripathi. “We have proved that our government is strong and many more BJP MLAs are in touch with the chief minister,” he said.
Following sharp differences with the then Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh, Tripathi (both leaders from the Vindhya region) had quit the Congress in April 2014. However, with Singh being sidelined in the Congress after his defeat in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections and Tripathi not being able to develop a bond with Satna MP Ganesh Singh, the "homecoming" was only a matter of time.
“Neither do I have a political legacy nor is politics my business. I work for the people of Maihar and expect ‘samman’ and ‘swabhiman’ (respect and pride),” Tripathi told News18.
“After joining the BJP, I realised that people who come in from other parties aren’t given any of that. They will put 'tika' on the forehead and offer a 'gamchha' (stole) on joining, but won’t look after you,” said Tripathi who was also associated with the SP in the past.
Tripathi also criticised former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for making numerous announcements for Maihar, but not fulfilling any of them. On being asked whether it was a "ghar wapsi" (homecoming) for him, a smiling Tripathi said, “What else do you need to see?”
The switch-over of Kol, the MLA from Beohari in tribal-dominated Shahdol, came as a surprise. He had defected to the BJP from the Congress ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls after being denied a ticket. His shift in loyalty has stumped leaders even in his own parent party. “It’s not clear what made Sharad Kol switch loyalty suddenly,” said a Congress leader from Shahdol.
However, Kol told News18, “BJP leaders can’t accept anyone who worked for the Congress for 10 years...I have returned to my family and I am sure under Kamal Nath, my region would see rapid development.”
On the alleged horse-trading of MLAs in Karnataka, where the Congress-JD(S) coalition government lost a trust vote on Tuesday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Govind Singh told News18 that the two BJP lawmakers who voted for the Congress in MP were like old family members who had drifted away.
Asked whether it was payback for what happened in Karnataka, Singh said it was first and foremost a response to the defection of senior party leader Chaudhary Rakesh Singh, with Karnataka in second spot.
Rakesh Singh, who was the deputy leader of opposition in 2013, had joined the BJP in the MP Assembly during a no-confidence motion brought by his own party. However, he returned to the Congress fold in 2018 after levelling allegations of ill-treatment against the saffron party.