On Monday morning at 11 am, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and Assembly Speaker NP Prajapati rejected Governor Lalji Tandon's directive to hold a vote of confidence on the floor of the Assembly. The governor had asked for a confidence vote because 22 Congress MLAs, including some ministers, have resigned. The governor has now revised his directive and asked for the floor test to be conducted by Tuesday. His new directive is expected to meet same fate.
Incidentally, Kamal Nath and Prajapati have given very different reasons for not holding the floor test, at least for another 10 days. That will be analysed a bit later.
The BJP has done what it was expected to do under the circumstances — rush to Supreme Court asking for an urgent hearing and the carrying-out of a floor test. The Supreme Court will hear the matter on Wednesday. Unlike the Karnataka issue, when the Supreme Court had constituted a bench after midnight and unlocked the justice's chamber in the early hours of the morning, the apex court showed no hurry in listening to the petition. It should, however, be noted that all eyes will be on the Supreme Court. In the past, the top court of the land has shown a preference for early floor tests, due recording of proceedings and ensuring that they were held freely and fairly.
Meanwhile, it is instructive to take note of Kamal Nath's letter to the governor — in which he rejected the floor test — which is full of contradictions and flaws, indicating his desperate desire to cling on to power for a while longer. The Congress leader does not have a majority in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly after Jyotiraditya Scindia's exit from the Congress and formal entry into the BJP.
Consider this: Kamal Nath exposed a major flaw in his argument in the very first paragraph of the letter. He claimed that several Congress MLAs had been held "hostage" (bandi banakar) by the BJP and then added that th`e MLAs were kept under the control of the Karnataka Police. Elsewhere in the letter, he called those MLAs kaidee (detainees). His argument is that until they are released, a floor test can't be conducted.
If what Kamal Nath is alleging is the case, then questions must be asked about the sort of chief minister who helplessly stands by while the Opposition party 'abducts' 19 legislators, including six ministers, and takes them to Bengaluru. He has a lot of agencies at his disposal to retrieve the 'kidnapped'. And the Congress has strongmen like Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar in Karnataka.
The Congress leaders are staying at a hotel in Bengaluru and have sent their resignations to the Speaker, chief minister and Governor. They have also been seen on television, criticising Kamal Nath and praising Scindia. If the chief minister continues to believe that the Karnataka Police is indeed holding the Congress MLAs from Madhya Pradesh as hostages or as unauthorised detainees, it borders on absurdity.
Kamal Nath then argued that under the circumstances, the governor's direction to hold a floor test is "undemocratic and unconstitutional". The chief minister should realise that it's not the governor's order but his decision to continue occupying the chief minister's chair despite losing confidence of sections of his own MLAs that is undemocratic and unconstitutional. He referred to a Supreme Court judgment in Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix versus Deputy Speaker Arunachal Pradesh and Others to assert why the governor can't interfere with the functioning of the Assembly.
He, however, conveniently forgot that the Supreme Court on several occasions has held that floor tests should be conducted at the earliest to see whether or not the government is in the majority and a show of strength can be done only on the floor of the House.
The expression of "surprise" over the governor's direction on more than one occasion in Kamal Nath's letter is also interesting. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister questioned how the governor could "prima facie believe" that his government has reduced to a minority. He doesn't think that the resignation letters of close to two dozen MLAs of his party should have any bearing on the governor's thought process and instead, spoke of recognising these MLAs as a separate group and invoking provisions of the anti-defection law. But, the MLAs and ministers have not formed a separate group, nor are they seeking recognition as separate group in the House. They have simply resigned from assembly.
As per Kamal Nath, the decision on a floor test can only be taken by the Speaker. Within minutes of the session on Monday beginning, the Speaker adjourned the Assembly on account of coronavirus, for the next 10 days. It didn't matter to him that the Parliament of India is in session.
Updated Date: Mar 17, 2020 09:10:17 IST