Amid the prevailing political crisis in Madhya Pradesh, a beleaguered Congress and a buoyed BJP are readying their strategies for the coming days when a part of the drama is likely to be played out in the assembly whose budget session starts from March 16. The Kamal Nath government, which assumed office in December 2018, plunged into crisis after a rebellion by a section of Congress MLAs earlier this week.
Encouraged by the resignation of 22 rebel Congress MLAs, the opposition BJP will push for a floor test on the opening day of the assembly session, while the Congress, staring at a possible collapse of its government, will seek to buy time to win back some of its legislators.
On Thursday, the Congress Rajya Sabha MP and former advocate general Vivek Tankha told reporters here that they were going to move the Supreme Court against the alleged manhandling and arrest of two state ministers in Karnataka.
"The incident is a direct attack on democracy," said Tankha, a senior Supreme Court lawyer.
The two Madhya Pradesh ministers, Jitu Patwari and Lakhan Singh, were arrested in Bengaluru, he claimed. They had gone to the Karnataka capital to arrange a meeting between a rebel Congress MLA and his father, he said.
The Congress has alleged that 19 of its MLAs are being held "captive" in a Bengaluru resort by the BJP, a charge denied by the main opposition party. The Congress has been accusing the BJP of trying to topple its government with allurements, a charge rejected outright by the saffron party.
The BJP on Thursday made it clear it will seek a floor test in the assembly as the Congress government has been reduced to a "minority" with the resignation of 22 MLAs.
BJP chief whip in the assembly Narottam Mishra and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told reporters their party will request for ascertaining the strength of the Nath government in the house.
The Congress government had been surviving on a wafer-thin majority in the 228-member assembly.
Before the rebellion, the Congress tally was 114. It also has the support of four Independent MLAs, two of the BSP and the lone SP legislator, but some may now switch sides and back the BJP which is sensing an opportunity to install its government in the state.
If the resignations of the 22 Congress MLAs are accepted by the speaker, the strength of the assembly will dip to 206. The Congress will then be left with 92 MLAs.
The BJP, with 107 MLAs, can give a shot at government formation as the magic number for a majority will be 104.
In such a fluid situation, the governments fate hinges to a large extent on Assembly Speaker N P Prajapati and what decision he takes on resignations.
Despite repeated attempts, the speaker could not be contacted for comments on the resignations of the legislators. However, according to sources close to Prajapati, he is going to have one-on-one meeting with the 22 rebel MLAs in the backdrop of the Congress charge that their resignations have been taken under duress by the BJP.
Senior journalist Chandrakant Naidu said the speaker was empowered to ask the rebel MLAs about their journey and stay in Bengaluru.
The Congress has accused the BJP of holding the MLAs captive in a Bengaluru resort, a charge denied by the saffron party.
The charge that their journey and hospitality in Bengaluru was sponsored needs a probe as it amounts to corrupt practice, Naidu added.
A source in the assembly said as per the schedule, the budget session will start with Governor Lalji Tandon's address after which the house will be adjourned for the day.
The next day (March 17), the house is going to mourn the death of a BJP MLA, who passed away after the last session, he said.
On March 18, the state's budget will be presented. The next day, there will be a motion of thanks on the Governor's address.
Assembly principal secretary A P Singh said it was the speakers prerogative to take a decision on conducting floor test.
Former Madhya Pradesh advocate general Purushendra Kaurav said the Supreme Court, in the recent Karnataka assembly case, clearly held that the speaker has a limited role in accepting or rejecting resignations.
It (resignation) can only be rejected if an enquiry demonstrates that it was not voluntary or genuine, he added.
The enquiry is limited to ascertaining if the member concerned intends to relinquish his assembly membership out of his our free will. He (the speaker) cannot enquire about any motive (behind resignation)," he said.
"If the speaker wants to do conduct enquiry he has to do it immediately, said Kaurav, who was the state's top law officer during the tenure of the previous BJP government.