The Kamal Nath government has succumbed to the pressure of Mayawati, who, the other day, threatened to reconsider support to the Congress governments in MP and Rajasthan if the cases filed against Dalits in connection with violence in the protest against the dilution of the provisions of the SC-ST Atrocities Act last year. Within a day of Mayawati’s threat, the MP government announced it was withdrawing all ‘politically motivated’ cases registered by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. Chief minister Kamal Nath did not have to think much about the demand as his ministry’s survival is dependent on the support of other MLAs, including two from BSP and one from SP. Congress won only 114 seats, two short of the 116 that is required for majority in the 230-member House.
Mayawati virtually hurled a bombshell on New Year’s Day when she warned Congress about unfulfilled promises on the New Year’s eve and threatened to reconsider support to the Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan if they failed to withdraw the cases lodged against people who participated in the ‘Bharat Bandh’ organised on April 2. For Congress, it is not just about the survival of the MP and Rajasthan governments, but more importantly from the point of view of the coming Lok Sabha elections. Although the BSP supremo has expressed no inclination to go with Congress, her approach is crucial in ensuring that the anti-BJP votes are not split.
Unlike in Karnataka, where her party is a partner in the coalition government, although with only one MLA, Kamal Nath has not included BSP in his ministry as he had decided that first-time MLAs will not be made ministers and both BSP legislators have no previous experience. But for Mayawati, it is the best of both worlds: she can dictate to the Kamal Nath government and yet need not take any blame for its failings. Participation in the ministry would have placed some restraint on the basis of accountability. Now she can demand anything and the Congress government cannot do anything about it if Kamal Nath cares for his ministry’s longevity.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh had cited the ‘compulsions of coalition’ as the main reason for his inability to stop irregularities by the coalition partners, particularly during the tenure of UPA-II, which saw the enactment of the 2G spectrum scam under the then telecom minister A Raja. It is a different matter that Raja and his collaborators have since been acquitted for want of credible evidence, but Singh’s ministry had seen government corruption scale unprecedented heights. It is situations like these that give parties like Mayawati’s the clout to hold ministries like Kamal Nath’s to ransom and get away with anything. Perhaps much more of this can be expected in the days to come.