The fall of the Congress government of Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh comes as no surprise after the turn of events in the State following the recent exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress and his decision to go with the BJP. Scindia was no run-of-the-mill leader. Not only was he a stalwart of consequence but he carried the Congress party on his shoulders with his charisma. He, along with Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan and Milind Deora in Maharashtra, among others, constituted the youth brigade of the party which for some time was on the ascendant until the old guard outwitted it with its guile and unscrupulousness. It was amply clear that Scindia, a former central minister and effective parliamentarian was being given short shrift by the party high command and by Chief Minister Kamal Nath. Doubtlessly, the BJP was deeply wounded by the manner in which its erstwhile ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, was hijacked by the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to outwit the pre-poll ally of the Sena, the BJP, to form a government. Sensing an opportunity with Scindia’s disenchantment with the Congress high command, the BJP thought it expedient to exploit that to bring down the Kamal Nath government.
With the Congress being headed by a lame duck president Sonia Gandhi, who was in poor health and forced to come out of retirement to revive the ailing party, Scindia found that there was nobody he could turn to in the party. Rahul, who was deemed to be his friend, was in semi-retirement and was obsessed with himself, having botched up Congress performance in election after election. With a weakened Congress, the party leadership had lost its connect with party workers and there was no one to take crucial decisions which could stem the rot. The Congress had indeed lost the advantage that it earlier wielded of being a rallying point for Opposition forces especially after it repeated its poor showing in the 2014 general elections with an equally lacklustre performance in 2019. In such circumstances, it was hardly surprising that ambitious young men like Jyotiraditya Scindia should look for greener pastures where they could revive their fortunes. It is indeed ironic that instead of doing some soul-searching, leaders like Kamal Nath are heaping all blame on the BJP for which it was perfectly natural to capitalise on the confusion that characterised the Congress scene.
That as the political crisis in Madhya Pradesh began with the exit of Scindia from the Congress, 22 Congress legislators who were ostensibly loyal to Scindia were whisked away to Bengaluru evidently courtesy the BJP and holed up there in virtual captivity, was by no means surprising since this has become a pattern in every state where an incumbent government is sought to be brought down. This is a practice that has proved a bane of the parliamentary form of government but surprisingly, the country’s Supreme Court has thought nothing of stopping this subversion of democracy. Kamal Nath has gone at length criticising this hijack of legislators but it is undeniable that the Congress too has been resorting to this practice when it suits that party. In state after state where this happens, the legislators are feted with five-star amenities and lavish food. That palms are greased and other baits offered is common knowledge. Ministerial bargains are struck by parties that lure these legislators is a hard reality that needs to be understood and deterred.
In the current case, the resignation of the Kamal Nath government will predictably lead to the return of a BJP government which had ruled the State for 15 long years. Whether that would lead to any improvement in the lot of the common man remains to be seen. Under the anti-defection law, the 22 legislators of the Congress who deserted the party and a lone BJP defector would come through to get elected in subsequent by-elections remains to be seen. Going by the events in Karnataka where a similar situation arose, most of them may well come through. There could then be a tussle in due course between the longtime BJP loyalists and the new entrants to the BJP from the Congress. Typically, the sense of public service as a smokescreen for their intent to get elected would get lost.