In the end, it turned out to be a tame Friday in Madhya Pradesh, with Chief Minister Kamal Nath sending his resignation to Governor Lalji Tandon, instead of taking the floor test as directed by the Supreme Court. Evidently, Congress managers failed to win back the 16 MLAs who won on a Congress ticket but chose to stay with Jyotiraditya Scindia when the latter shifted loyalty to the BJP earlier this month. The unseemly and now frequent drama of vaulting ambitions and political hubris staged, mostly behind closed doors, in the backdrop of luxury resorts and speculation of cash rewards, offers a dim view of democracy at work.
The recent events in Bhopal are yet another example of the extreme listlessness and seemingly unstoppable drift in the Congress party. Its leaders, particularly its top leader in MP, Kamal Nath, need to own the blame for this crumbling of a Congress government in a politically crucial Hindi heartland state in a time when Congress governments are a dwindling entity. The BJP may have wooed and won Scindia, but did the Congress leadership, which was surely aware of the disquiet in the MP unit, even try to put its own house in order, especially when the government had a wafer-thin majority? When confronted by a BJP that is ruthless in wresting power even after it has failed to win the mandate, the Congress appears both unprepared and unwilling to do battle. The party has shown a dismal lack of political, organisational and ideological resources to convince its own legislators that it is a party of the future. But as it prepares to take over the reins in MP, the BJP, too, is tarnished. Its predatory behaviour aimed at forming governments in states where it has not won the election — Goa, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh — hurts its claim to be a party with a difference, or principle.
The developments in MP also reveal the limits of the anti-defection law. Ever since the recent Supreme Court ruling in the context of events in Karnataka, a legislator who wants to change sides only needs to fight a by-election to re-enter the House in the same term. Just 15 months after a new assembly was elected, MP will now need to conduct at least 23 by-polls soon. They will be a burden on the exchequer, even as they further dent public trust in the political process.
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