With the Kamal Nath government headed for a floor test that will determine its fate, the spotlight is on Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker Narmada Prasad Prajapati.
The 61-year-old Congress legislator from Gotegaon, a reserved constituency in Narsinghpur district, Prajapati was first elected to the Assembly in 1985 and was elected thrice after that.
Son of a contractor, Prajapati played as goalkeeper in the hockey teams of his college and university. He captained the Indore University hockey team for a year. And while the Assembly has not seen many sessions since he was elected Speaker in January 2019, Prajapati has shown tough tackling skills in conducting the business of the House.
The first session of Assembly after the Congress came to power was marred by the acrimony between the treasury benches and the Opposition, with former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan accusing the Speaker of “behaving like a don”.
“You are not behaving like a Speaker. You are behaving like a don. You are threatening us. We won’t tolerate it. Your threats won’t work,’’ Chouhan had said after the Speaker did not allow legislators, including former Speaker Sitasaran Sharma, to raise their points of view on the House floor. The session saw Prajapati engage in heated exchanges with Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargava and other BJP legislators.
Also, the Speaker has often pulled up ruling party legislators and even ministers, warning them against creating a commotion by talking among themselves and occasionally asking them to return to their seats.
Prajapati often cites the rule book to discipline the legislators. “I will go by the rule book,’’ was his first reaction after receiving resignation letters from Congress legislators close to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has left the Congress and joined the BJP.
On Wednesday, Prajapati said the MLAs will have to appear before him personally. He said he would look into “evidence” before deciding each case on merit.
Known to be confidant of Chief Minister Kamal Nath, the Spekaer enjoys equally good relations with senior Congress leader and former CM Digvijaya Singh. He served as Energy Minister in Singh’s first tenure as CM from 1993-1998.
“He is jovial and rarely serious,’’ said a former Congress spokesperson who studied with him at Indore.
BJP leader Kailash Jatav, who has once defeated Prajapati and has lost to him once, refers to him as “bade bhai”. “My campaign against him was never negative. I always sought votes on my performance,’’ he said.
The floor test will happen after the budget session begins on March 16.
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