BJP's plan to 'woo' Cong MLAs to reduce dependence on Scindia in by-polls

CM Chouhan took more than three months to expand his Cabinet, and when it happened, Congress defectors and Scindia-supporting MLAs managed to get the lion’s share of offices. (Photo: PTI)
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh is going all out to woo Congress legislators. In the past two weeks, the party has poached three Congress MLAs — Pradyuman Singh Lodhi, Sumitra Devi Kasdekar, and Narayan Patel — to consolidate its position ahead of the crucial by-elections.

The plan was readied during the recent Cabinet expansion and portfolio allocation in the state. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took more than three months to expand his Cabinet, and when it happened, Congress defectors and Jyotiraditya Scindia-supporting MLAs managed to get the lion’s share of offices. This left many senior BJP leaders unhappy.

Those in the know said that was the time when the BJP decided to woo more Congress MLAs because it wants to reduce its dependence on Scindia and his loyal MLAs. The party executed its plan well.

BJP Spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal denied the charge his party was trying to woo opposition MLAs. He said, ‘‘They are joining the BJP because there is no future in the Congress.’’ When asked if the BJP will nominate them to contest from their respective seats in the upcoming by-polls, he said: ‘‘We have made no commitment to them. The party leadership will decide how to honour those who have put faith in it. There was no pre-condition.’’

Another BJP leader said: ‘‘Chouhan was under tremendous pressure while allotting ministerial berths. That’s the reason the party wants to ensure the government’s survival without Scindia loyalists.’’

BJP’s anxieties

Bhopal-based senior journalist and political analyst Rakesh Dixit is of the view that the BJP is doing this to reduce Scindia’s influence on the Chouhan government.

“An internal assessment says that most of the Scindia supporters might be defeated in the upcoming by-elections. There are 16 assembly seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region (where they belong). If most of them lose, the BJP government will still survive because the party, with 107 seats in the 230-member Assembly, needs nine more seats to secure a majority. Chouhan will then be more than happy to accommodate his old companions in the cabinet,” he added.

On the other hand, with the recent resignations, the Congress’s chances of coming back to power are bleak. Nobody knows this better than former chief minister and Pradesh Congress committee chief Kamal Nath. Alarmed by the BJP’s actions, Nath has assigned his trusted men the job of keeping an eye on the Congress flock. The Congress legislature party also administered an oath to the MLAs that they would not break away, but to no avail. If sources are to be believed, at least six more MLAs are in touch with the BJP and might change their loyalties.

“The BJP is targeting those who are vulnerable. Pradyuman Singh Lodhi was in the BJP previously, and there are a few old cases pending against Sumitra Devi. The BJP must have promised to protect them. Lodhi was made chairman of the MP Civil Supplies Corporation with cabinet rank the day he joined the BJP,” said Dixit.

Nath has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to protect “democratic values”. There is an undemocratic pandemic in the country in which the BJP was luring MLAs to topple elected governments in opposition-ruled states, alleged Nath. He requested the prime minister to save the declining credibility of Indian democracy.

The BJP’s priorities are clear and the people of the state are watching the whole episode, according to Madhya Pradesh Congress Spokesperson Syed Jaffar.

‘‘The state was under five days’ mourning after the death of Governor Lalji Tandon but the BJP was still busy poaching Congress MLAs. The pandemic in the state is out of control and farmers are suffering due to lack of urea and on account of unpaid minimum support prices.’’

The Congress has been reduced to 89. With the three resignations, 27 seats have been fallen vacant for by-election. The party has to win all of them to return to power.

 


Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel