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Kamal Nath's present tense, future uncertain as BSP threatens to pull out of state govt, BJP eyes return at Centre

Even as the heat, dust and cacophony of electioneering sow the seeds of confusion in the minds of voters, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is battling another kind of dilemma. The perception is gaining ground that his government is plagued by uncertainty, which is certainly writ large over Vallabh Bhawan, the seat of government in Madhya Pradesh. ‘Will it or will it not?’ is the question that dogs the mind of every babu — big and small — as they deal with sarkari files.

 Kamal Naths present tense, future uncertain as BSP threatens to pull out of state govt, BJP eyes return at Centre

Madha Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath. PTI

The corridors of power are abuzz with speculation about the fate of the state government if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) storms back to power at the Centre. “What can we do if the Kamal Nath government falls under its own weight?” shrugged Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was unseated following his party’s defeat in the last Assembly elections. Chouhan refused to contest any Lok Sabha seat and is constantly engaging with people of the state.

Some on both sides are willing to wager that the government will not last after 23 May, the day of the Lok Sabha poll results.

A senior bureaucrat who worked under Chouhan for many years, spoke on condition of anonymity, “Puri sarkar dar me chal rahi hai ki Modi ke dobara satta me aane par, BJP vidhayakon ko tod na le,”  (the government is working under the fear that Modi government might break away some MLAs after coming back to power). This fear dominates the mind of every bureaucrat, he added.

Mayawati factor 

Mayawati has also not made Nath’s life any easier. She was all fire and brimstone when the BSP candidate from Guna Lok Sabha constituency, Lokendra Singh Rajput, was ‘made’ to withdraw from the contest by Jyotiraditya Scindia and throw his support behind Congress candidate. The Bahujan Samaj Party supremo has threatened to “reconsider” continuing support to the Madhya Pradesh government for ‘the Congress intimidating the BSP candidate’. The Congress has 114 MLAs in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Asssembly. The BJP has 109 seats while the Congress government is supported by two BSP, one SP and four Independent MLAs. Withdrawal of support by two BSP MLAs would leave his government with a wafer-thin majority. With 109 MLAs, the BJP is waiting in the wings and would need just seven more to return to power.

Much before Mayawati’s threat made the situation worse, all was not well in Madhya Pradesh. Of the two strongest Congress leaders, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the latter is not averse to the idea of pulling the rug from under Nath’s feet if the situation warrants it. Scindia was considered a natural choice for the top post in the state after ensuring the party won 26 out of 34 seats from Gwalior-Chambal region, an area of influence. These seats, the biggest gains for the party and which led it back to power, were BJP bastions for decades. Under the circumstances, MLAs will not hesitate to desert Nath.

Scindia is reportedly not happy at being shunted out of the state to manage western Uttar Pradesh during the ongoing elections.

His supporters strongly believe this was the handiwork of Nath to "keep him away from trouble.” Nath has a strong ally in Digvijaya to keep Scindia in check and keep the power balance in his favour.

Growing unease

Political observers feel that once elections are over and the BJP returns to power, Scindia will hardly have any work at the Centre, which could mean the beginning of the end for Nath. Professor Alok Rai, who teaches political science at a degree college in Khandwa concurred: “There is a surely sense of unease among a large section of people, including bureaucrats. Whenever two different parties rule in a state and at the Centre, efforts are often made to unseat the ruling party from the state.”

Reacting to threat to his government after Mayawati's statement about reconsidering her support, Nath assured her that "any misunderstanding will be sorted out" and that all parties that have a common goal: to fight the BJP. "Mayawati's party has the same goal as us, that is, exit of the BJP. Our goal and ideology are the same. To keep the BJP out, we have to stick together. There is no divide," asserted Nath.

Weakening hold

Mayawati may not be in a mood to forgive and forget, especially when she and Nath have not been in the best of terms since their talks for an alliance prior to the polls fell through last year. The BSP chief lashed out at the Congress, but then extended her support when the Grand Old Party fell short of a majority in Madhya Pradesh.

However, since then, ties between Mayawati and the Congress have progressively weakened.

After leaving the Congress out of her alliance with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha election, the BSP chief declared that her party would have no tie-up with the Congress anywhere in the country. Citing reasons for the government’s discomfort, Rai said Nath hardly had any time to display his governance skills since Lok Sabha polls were announced and the Model Code of Conduct came into effect within three months of his taking charge. “After winning the Assembly elections, Nath is yet again caught in the whirl of parliamentary elections, leaving him hardly any time to firm up his grip over the state,” he opined.

Brave front

The incumbent chief minister, however, is sticking to his rigorous schedule and is exhibiting no apparent nervousness. “I keep hearing statements from BJP leaders that my government [in Madhya Pradesh] will not complete its full term. The BJP seems very worried about the Congress. My advice to the BJP is that they should worry more about their house and not the Congress,’” Nath has said repeatedly.

“The biggest problem with Nath is that he is not a mass leader and his appeal is limited to his constituency in Chhindwara. When it comes to his connect with the people, he is found wanting, and this gives much ammunition to his rivals to gang up and attack him at times when he is vulnerable,” said political commentator Girija Shanker. With just 16 days to go for polling to conclude in Madhya Pradesh on 19 May and another four crucial days to anoint the winner in New Delhi, uneasy lies the crown atop Nath's head.

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Updated Date: May 03, 2019 16:48:55 IST