The recent Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh which did not leave a clear winner and saw the Congress form government with the help of Independents, the BSP and SP, has a collateral damage — the reputation of the numerically insignificant Anglo-Indian community being a close knit group is in tatters.
Given the clear electoral verdicts in the past, the nomination of an Anglo-Indian member in the Assembly remained a ritual that did not attract much attention but the fractured mandate in December has made every vote in the House significant.
The Kamal Nath-led Congress government had recommended the nomination of Jabalpur-based Jennifer Messias in December last year but Governor Anandiben Patel is yet to clear it, sources in Raj Bhavan have confirmed. The nomination also faces a legal hurdle with a petition being filed in the MP High Court.
The recommendation was made days before the new government was to prove its majority in the assembly. Like other elected legislators, the nominated MLA can vote in the Assembly, for example, when no confidence motion is moved. However, they can’t participate in presidential elections.
Jennifer was the president of the Jabalpur branch of the All India Anglo Indian Association, but was expelled as a member in 2017, two years after she lost an election for the post. When speculation about her nomination began, her detractors in the community got active.
In January, the association’s new president, Philip Palmer, wrote to the Governor, objecting to Jennifer’s nomination. “In 2017, she was expelled from the Jabalpur branch for her actions that caused great harm to the community after she lost the election for the president’s post… She refused to hand over documents and cheque books etc. For this and other acts of omission and commission she was expelled from the governing body. The community will be greatly disheartened and very upset if such a person is given the responsibility of representing it. It will be highly unacceptable,’’ wrote Palmer.
Palmer told The Indian Express that he felt it was his duty as the association president to inform that Jennifer was not a member. “How can a person expelled from the association become a key person representing the community?’’ he said, adding that the community has never faced something like this before. “It’s sad but I had no choice but to complain,” he said.
Denzil Paul (64), president of Christian Education Society which runs a B Ed college and a school in Jabalpur, admitted that he is lobbying for a nomination and has presented his resume to the CM. Paul claimed that Jennifer enjoys the support of a few people in Jabalpur.
Refusing to elaborate, Jennifer said she was the president for nearly 20 years and had an impeccable reputation. “I can’t believe what I am hearing about myself. I am innocent,” she said, referring to a smear campaign against her and threatening to drag some people to court for defamation. She was a lecturer at St Joseph Convent, Jabalpur, for nearly four decades. Her father H D Vyse, a former Army Major, represented the community in the Assembly from 1985 to 1990 when the Congress was in power.
The proposed nomination also faces a legal hurdle. Dr P G Najpande of Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch, a Jabalpur-based organisation, has moved the MP High Court seeking a stay on the nomination on the ground that reservation for the community is ending in 2020. Notices have been issued to the Centre and the state government.
“Their number is negligible. The community says it has 200 to 250 members in the state. Do you need an MLA for such a small group of people?’’ he claimed. “Even if the nomination is announced, it will only be for few months because the reservation will end early next year. It will have its own complications,” he said.