K’taka, MP govts try to placate rebels
The Congress and its allies moved to secure state governments in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka on Monday by attempting to placate rebels and independents after reports of rumblings following a poor Lok Sabha poll performance.
In Madhya Pradesh, a senior state Congress leader said on condition of anonymity that the party was looking at appointments to government-run boards and corporations and expansion of the council of ministers to avert any possible crisis. “There is no threat to my government. Let the floor test takes place. We are ready for it,” chief minister Kamal Nath said.
The Congress, which has 114 MLAs in the 230-member house, is dependent on four independent, two Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and one Samajwadi Party (SP) lawmakers’ support. Of these, only one independent MLA – Pradeep Jaiswal – is a minister. The Congress won just one of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) also appeared to prefer the expansion of cabinet route to ward off any risk to its government in Karnataka, where the BJP won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats. At present there are three vacancies in the state cabinet, two of the JD(S) and one of the Congress.
But a senior Congress leader said on condition of anonymity that an expansion may also cause more discontent. “The whole exercise is fraught with the risk that those who miss out might kick up a row,” the leader said. The Congress has 80 MLAs and the JD(S) 37 in a 224-member house.
The fate of the so-called rebel Congress MLAs remains unclear. Ramesh Jarkiholi, who had said in April that he would quit, has said all would be clear soon. “I cannot speak to the media at this time. You will get to know my decision in due course,” Jarkiholi said. Mahesh Kumathahalli, another dissident MLA, has denied reports suggesting he was close to resigning. “Jarkiholi and I are with the Congress and will remain in the party. All reports in the media are mere speculation,” he said
Last week, MP chief minister Kamal Nath had accused the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which won 28 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in the state, of trying to lure Congress MLAs. One of his ministerial colleagues Pradyumn Singh Tomar even alleged that some Congress legislators were offered as much as Rs 50 crore to switch sides. Former chief minister and senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said he is not in favour of a floor test.
According to the MP Congress leader quoted above, the state government is now waiting for the model code of conduct, which is in force because of the Lok Sabha polls, to be lifted to take a number of measures to placate disgruntled MLAs.
A number of these legislators have expressed discontent earlier. Independent MLA from Burhanpur, Surendra Singh, said last week that as people had “said goodbye” to the Congress, he might consider doing the same. BSP MLA Rambai Singh, who had earlier expressed annoyance over the denial of a ministerial berth, alleged on Monday that she was offered a minister berth of her choice and ₹25 to ₹50 crore to switch over to the BJP side. “Kamal Nath ji a good and honest leader and I will not leave him,” she added.
There are 29 ministers in the state cabinet, and there is space for six more. State home minister Bala Bachchan said, “All the MLAs supporting the government have assured that they are with the government for the complete term of the state assembly. The BJP is deliberately trying to create confusion.”
State BJP vice-president Vijesh Lunawat said, “It’s not BJP but Congress MLAs are expressing their resentment over government’s poor performance and ministers are not paying any heed to them.”
Political analyst Girija Shankar said, “Nobody knows whether the BJP will topple the Congress government but Kamal Nath looks under pressure. Hence, his all the decisions appear to be in the direction of protecting his government.”