Madhya Pradesh Speaker N P Prajapati Monday adjourned the Assembly within an hour of the commencement of proceedings. The first day of the Budget Session was being keenly watched to see whether he would hold a floor test for the Kamal Nath government to prove its majority.
Citing the coronavirus outbreak, however, the Speaker adjourned proceedings till March 26. The state Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and General Administration, Govind Singh, had moved a motion to adjourn the Assembly. Incidentally, barring BJP MLAs, the Speaker, Chief Minister and Congress MLAs were wearing masks in the House today. Read highlights from the session
Madhya Pradesh floor test: The numbers
The crisis in the state began after Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress last week along with 22 MLAs, who sent their resignations to the Speaker. To prevent them from interacting with the Congress or revoking their resignations, he had then whisked them off to a hotel in Bengaluru. (Here’s our explainer on the practice of ‘resort politics’)
Today, all members of the House were in attendance, except these 22 MLAs.
The Speaker, who is known to be close to Congress’ Digvijay Singh, has so far accepted the resignations of only six MLAs (all ministers in the state government), and asked the rest to meet him and verify their signatures. The MLAs, however, have not sought an appointment yet to meet him.
After accepting the resignations of six MLAs, the effective strength of the 230-member Assembly is down to 222, bring the majority mark to 112. Congress has 108 seats in the House, while BJP has 107.
The Speaker advised MLAs today to uphold the rule of law so that the “dignity of Madhya Pradesh remains protected.”
Madhya Pradesh Governor asks for floor test
Governor Lalji Tandon had Friday asked the Speaker to conduct a floor test. He had also summoned CM Nath to discuss his position in the Assembly. Nath had said he was ready to face the floor test.
Today, however, the Speaker decided to adjourn the Assembly.
In fact, hours before today’s session, Nath wrote a letter to the Governor saying his directive to hold a floor test was out of the purview of his constitutional rights and that it “does not lie within the domain of the Governor to interfere with the functions of the Speaker”.
In his letter, Nath claimed some of his MLAs were being held hostage in Karnataka, and a floor test should be when all MLAs are “free from coercion and not under any pressure”.
With the session resuming on March 26, the Congress has at least 10 days to get its flock in order.
Is this legal?
It has been proven time and again that any instruction issued to the Speaker by the Governor is not binding. The Governor may only order the Chief Minister, but not the Speaker of the house. However, the House must resume and pass the state budget before the end of the financial year as it will otherwise be difficult for the state to function from April.
But a senior minister told The Indian Express that the Supreme Court has made it clear in the Karnataka issue that the resignation should be accepted. “For the BJP, it is a comfortable position — if the resignation is accepted, the MLAs can’t vote, if it’s not, they will vote against their party whip,” the minister said, adding that the BJP was going to gain two seats.
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So, what next?
The state unit of the BJP has moved the Supreme Court seeking a floor test in the House. In its plea, the party sought direction to the Chief Minister and the Principal Secretary of the Assembly to “hold the floor test in the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly within 12 hours of the passing of the order by this court and as directions… issued by Governor.”
Meanwhile, it also submitted a letter to the Governor and paraded 106 MLAs before him. Former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan accused Nath of running away from the battlefield.
Earlier this morning, the BJP said it would wait for the Speaker’s decision before taking its next step. “The situation is under assessment. We are awaiting the Speaker’s decision. After assessing the situation we will decide at the appropriate time,” a leader had told The Indian Express when asked whether the party would move Supreme Court.
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