Kamal Nath
Kamal Nath
Wikimedia

It is over bar the last rites. The way the Kamal Nath Government was running scared, refusing to hold the trust vote, it was clear as daylight that it had lost the battle for numbers. The battle for public perception it had lost the day the long-time loyalist and four-time party MP, Jyotiraditya Scindia, walked out of the Congress along with 22 of his loyal MLAs. It was curtains then for the 15-month-old government, cobbled together with the support of a few footloose retail legislators. Now that the BJP seems all set to form government, after having settled its own internal leadership issues, these very-same MLAs might be dying to do business with the new ruling party bosses. That is politics. And, please make note,  is hamam mein sab nangey hain. On Monday, as expected, Nath, despite the bluster that he had the numbers, used the coronavirus epidemic excuse to put off the crucial headcount by ten days. Twenty-sixth of March, the new date for the meeting of the Assembly set by the Speaker, N P Prajapati, is also when the MLAs are scheduled to elect three members of the Rajya Sabha. Probably, this prevented the meeting of the Assembly from being put off even longer. If the Speaker was blamed for being partisan by the BJP leaders, the Congress leaders accused the Governor Lalji Tandon of siding with the BJP. Nath’s letter questioning the locus of the Governor in asking him to hold the floor test on Monday only underlined the fact that he no longer enjoyed majority support in the Assembly. His game was up. Whether the Speaker and the CM saw it or not, the fact that the resignations of six of the 22 Scindia loyalists were duly accepted without them appearing for personal interviews before Prajapati, as the latter had demanded, no reason was given for the resignations of the other 16 not being accepted likewise. It was of no consequence that at the recommendation of the CM, the Governor had accepted the resignations of the six ministers. Still they continued to remain MLAs. The 16 are still in Bengaluru in the protective care of the State government lest there be an attempt to lure them back with money or offers of ministerships or both. Given that the 22 were elected from the traditional electoral sphere of Scindia, personal loyalty rather than money may have played a greater part in their leaving the Congress. But an effort to entice them back might require Nath to open the purse strings.

For sure, a friendly Centre and a sympathetic Governor gives the BJP a further edge in this battle of nerves with Nath, otherwise a crafty politician with access to abundant resources. Even the assistance of Digvijay Singh, no less responsible in pushing Scindia into the arms of the BJP than Nath himself, seems to be of little use since the rebel MLAs are bent on resigning their seats. In the meantime, what the Supreme Court does on the BJP petition seeking an early vote in the Assembly would be clear only on Tuesday. But given its woeful lack of numbers, the Nath Government is bound to counter the BJP plea tooth and nail. Also, it is doubtful if Nath would heed the Governor’s new directive for holding the confidence vote on Tuesday. Whatever the decision of the apex court, it is hoped that the Centre would resist the temptation to dismiss the Nath Government even if it is clear to everyone that it has lost its majority. The only forum to determine its majority, or lack of it, is the floor of the House. Hopefully, the apex court will strongly advise the Assembly Speaker to convene the House in the next couple of days for conducting the single-point agenda of the trust vote. That would be fully in consonance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Giving ten days for the trust vote would only further vitiate the atmosphere in the State and embitter the national polity.

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