Who will lead the BJP in the Vidhan Sabha is a million-dollar question. The central leadership has attached great importance to the post of the leader of the opposition. This is clear by the fact that the BJP leadership has deputed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to oversee the election of the opposition leader at the meeting of the BJP legislature party. Among others, former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is also in the race. The other important candidate is former minister Narottam Mishra.
All eyes are on the first session of the newly constituted Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, which begins in Bhopal on January 7. Besides the formal agenda of administering oath to the elected members, the house will also elect its Speaker. So far MP Vidhan Sabha has been following the tradition of electing Speaker with unanimity. There is yet another tradition according to which the post of Deputy Speaker is given to the opposition.
But the possibility of contest for the office is not ruled out. The main opposition, BJP, has not yet taken a decision about it. If BJP decides to sponsor its candidate for speakership and forces a contest then it will amount to a floor test of majority. In view of this possibility the Congress is taking all precautions to face the contingency of election. The outcome of Speaker’s election will be crucial because if Congress loses the contest its government may fall. Congress on its own has the strength of 114 in the house of 230. To secure victory it will require the support of 116 legislators. The Congress, besides its own strength, enjoys support of three independents, two BSP and one SP legislators. Congress will have to ensure that BSP, SP and independent legislators continue their support.
Two days back, Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in New Delhi and met many central leaders. Media reports say that during his visit he must have tried to feel the pulse of party president Amit Shah. After returning from Delhi, Chouhan told the media, “I am not in the race of LoP nor have I asked any party leader to propose my name. I do not want any post after working for almost 13 years as chief minister of the state and would serve the party as a common worker.” Sources in BJP disclosed that Chouhan had a detailed meeting with party leaders and national office-bearers in New Delhi during his two-day stay. He met Union minister Rajnath Singh, state in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and other leaders to discuss the current political situation after the party’s debacle in the assembly polls. Chouhan has been asked to work to motivate party workers for the ensuing success in the Lok Sabha elections.
During the meeting with top party leaders in Delhi, Chouhan refused to be included among the probables for the post of LoP, said sources, adding that senior party leaders were also not keen to recommend Chouhan’s name in view of discontent among a section of leaders against him. It has been learnt that BJP wants a change in the state leadership in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Sources said that the party has plans to appoint a senior Brahmin leader as LoP and names of Narottam Mishra and Rajendra Shukla are being considered for LoP.
Rajnath Singh and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe are likely to reach the state capital on January 6 when all party MLAs will hold a meeting, confirmed a state BJP functionary. It is also being said that BJP will not field a candidate for the post of Speaker if both Congress and BJP reach a consensus over the names of speaker and deputy speaker.
Meanwhile, Digvijay Singh caused a sensation by alleging that some former BJP ministers are trying to win over some legislators by offering them handsome money and office. Singh named former minister Narottam Mishra, Bhupendra Singh and Vishwas Sarang of hatching a conspiracy to overthrow the Congress government. Singh said that the BJP leaders are targeting three independents, two BSP and one SP MLA. It is widely known that these legislators are angry over the denial of ministership to them. Singh said he has reports that these former ministers are making frantic efforts to win over them. They are being offered a few crores each. Singh said they are watching the activities.
Asked about this allegation Chouhan told newspersons that his party was against horse trading. He made it clear that they will never form a government without having majority.
Reacting to the decision to scrap MISA detainees pension, Loktantra Senani Sangh (LSS), the organisation of the beneficiaries, has decided to move the High Court against the Congress government order dated December 29 re-prescribing the pension procedure on the basis of physical verification and halting pensions from next month.
The newly-elected Congress dispensation claimed that payments were exceeding budgetary allocation for the fund vis-a-vis MISA detainees pensions. The government has, however, also said that it will review the list of the pensioners and take further decision. This triggered allegations and counter-allegations between the Congress and the BJP. Madhya Pradesh has approximately 2,000 MISA pensioners, who receive an average Rs 25,000 each.
(The author is a senior journalist)