The ruling Congress in Madhya Pradesh is working on three fronts to secure its position in the state assembly. There is a realisation that the current slender majority is no guarantee for survival in times of “rampant wholesale trade” of MLAs as seen in Goa and Karnataka, party sources said.
The effort is on to keep the flock together, distribute largesse to the coalition partners and engineer a majority by luring away a couple of BJP MLAs.
With 114 MLAs in a House of 230, the Congress is two short of the majority mark of 116. Two BSP and one SP legislators along with four independents are backing the Congress. The BJP had won 109 seats but one of its MLA resigned after being elected to the Lok Sabha.
After a quick weekend trip to Delhi, Chief Minister Kamal Nath has called another meeting of his party and allies on Tuesday for a third round of lunch or dinner diplomacy time in mere 11 days.
Recently senior party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia visited Bhopal and had luncheon and dinner meetings with the Chief Minister. He was supposed to rein in his supporters going ballistic against Kamal Nath and Digvijay factions and the bureaucracy. But that has not brought peace in the party.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath plans another dinner with the MLAs of his party and allies — BSP, SP and Independents — for another bonding exercise. A round of tutorials may follow to ensure they feel their pulse and give them a lecture or two to see that they remain firm during the division (voting) on financial matters in the monsoon session of the Assembly which resumes on Wednesday, say party sources.
“Yes I have also been invited at the meeting on July 17 at the CM’s house,” says BSP MLA Ram Bai while reiterating her support to Kamal Nath and Congress.
During the first meeting of the coalition legislators on July 7 at his residence, Kamal Nath had cautioned them against leaving the House during the sittings. This was after the BJP disclosed its game plan to seek division of votes on financial matters.
Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, known for his proximity to Rahul Gandhi, had dinner with his faction supporters and allies and Independents on July 11 here to gauge their mood.
The leader of the Opposition Gopal Bhargava and state BJP Chief Rakesh Singh have also asked all party MLAs to be present in the House throughout the session.
On the second front, Kamal Nath plans to shortly fill up vacancies in various corporations to pre-empt potential discontent among party members and allies.
The first signal came late last week when the Chief Minister made first political appointment by naming Ashok Singh of the Digvijay Singh faction as Chairman of state cooperative Apex Bank. Deepak Saxena, who vacated the Chhindwara assembly seat for Kamal Nath, is almost certain to be made the President of State Mineral Development Corporation.
Former Union Minister Suresh Pachauri is among three candidates being considered to be made Vice chairman of President of State Planning commission. The others are former Assembly deputy speaker Rajendra Singh and former MP Rameshwar Nikhra.
The chief spokesperson for the Congress in the state, Shobha Ojha, is expected to head the state Women’s Commission. The Congress general secretary in charge of the state Deepak Bavaria has suggested that the Chief Minister make all appointments simultaneously to prevent resentment among the aspirants.