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14 July 2013

Sulking BJP pulls coup over Cong in Madhya Pradesh; No-trust motion aborted in apparent violation of rules

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By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), in Madhya Pradesh, sulking after the Raghavji episode wherein its Finance Minister was forced to quit following sodomy charges, pulled a sort of coup on Congress, the main Opposition party in the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, by welcoming senior Congress leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Chaudhary Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi into its fold with great enthusiasm.

The BJP committed this act of opportunism after Congress leader Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi punctured his party’s no-confidence motion in the state Assembly by opposing it even before it could be moved and debate initiated. The monsoon session of the 13th assembly, was adjourned sine die on Thursday, amid heated debate over no-trust motion’s legality, has raised some serious questions. The opinion of the members was not sought on Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Narottam Mishra’s proposal to adjourn the House sine die and it was done amidst stiff protests by the opposition members.

Also, the rule that a no-trust motion supported by at least ten percent of the members present and voting in the House will be accepted, was ignored after Congress MLA Rakesh Chaudhary expressed his objection on the no-trust motion.

Immediately after Leader of the Congress Opposition Ajay Singh was called upon by Speaker Ishwar Das Rohani to speak, Rakesh Singh Choudhary, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, sprang to his feet and started disputing his own party’s No-Confidence Motion. He said he did not agree with the motion on two grounds: one, it ignored the case of former Finance Minister Raghavji altogether and two, a recent tweet allegedly by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh—"Baccha Baccha Ram Ka, Raghavji Ke Kam Ka”—was an insult to all Hindus. He said 80 per cent of us are Hindus, and it is an insult to Madhya Pradesh and an insult to all children.

The BJP benches, thereafter, started calling out for the name of the author of the Twitter message, but Chowdhary Rakesh Singh refrained from naming the person. BJP leader Narottam Mishra, who obviously was at the helm of this political engineering, spoke next: “The Leader of the Opposition does not have the confidence of his own party. I would recommend, rather than tabling a no-confidence motion against the BJP government, Ajay Singh should first go and earn that for himself from his own party leaders.”

Rakesh Singh alleged that he wanted some changes in the no-confidence proposal. He said that 721 pilgrims from Madhya Pradesh were still missing in Uttarakhand and the Congress needed to bring that up too. Then he added: "I am a Hindu by birth when I saw an offensive tweet about Ram and Raghavji, it hurt my religious sentiments. I request that the Raghavji issue be discussed as part of the no-confidence motion and also that the former finance minister's immoral acts should not be used to insult the children of Madhya Pradesh." He further said that he did not believe in the no-confidence proposal as presented by the Congress opposition.

The BJP created ruckus as a puzzled Congress stared disbelievingly at its own leader. The BJP was quick to react as minister for industries and commerce Kailash Vijayvargiya raised a "point of order'' with speaker Ishwardas Rohani. Vijayvargiya said: "This is for the first time in the history of the state that the leader of opposition has proposed a no-confidence against the government and his deputy has opposed the same." He quoted from the book of rules and codes and claimed that if a member of the opposition opposes a no-confidence then the motion is not applicable and annulled.

The ruckus continued and the house was adjourned for half-an-hour. Uproar continued as the house reassembled. Ajay Singh raised his point of order that one person's defection does not stand, as all other Congress MLAs were in support of the motion. The Congress demanded the no-confidence discussion while legislative affairs minister Narottam Mishra quoted more rules and regulations and demanded the House be adjourned sine die. Chief minister Chouhan told the house that Rakesh Singh was the deputy speaker and no ordinary MLA. Rakesh Singh has put his whole career at stake to bring up a valid point which he believes in. "We will reply to the Congress' allegations on the field and in every constituency," Chouhan said.

The legislative affairs minister showed the rule book to the speaker, while Ajay Singh snapped, "Don't show the rule book. Show the suitcase that you delivered." Even as the ruckus continued, the speaker said: "I have been informed by the legislative affairs minister that all business for the monsoon session has been completed. Hence, this house is being adjourned indefinitely."

It is being questioned as to why when the BJP enjoys the number power in Madhya Pradesh, and since the no-confidence movement was not to be a success anyway, was this kind of a masterminding required? The answer maybe lies in the fact that the 16-page charge sheet filed by the Congress against the BJP in the Assembly, is one with each allegation backed by documented proof and evidence. If tabled and discussed it could have caused great embarrassment for the BJP. What better way but to turn it ‘null and void’, and that too by firing the salvo from the Opposition’s own shoulder?

Stabbed in the back

Later, inside the MP Vidhan Sabha, speaking to media persons, Rahul Singh said, “We have been knifed in the back by one of our own.”

Blaming Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan for the incident, he said, Chauhan engineered this to avoid a discussion on charges against his near and dear ones.

Meanwhile, an hour later, Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi was in the BJP office flanked by chief minister Chouhan, his cabinet ministers and the state BJP chief. He will now contest the upcoming November polls on a BJP ticket.

Chaturvedi announced his decision to join BJP at a press conference. He said he had spoken against the no-confidence motion in the Assembly as a matter of principle and maintained he could not compromise with his ideology. He said he would work with total devotion for BJP in the state which is to hold Assembly elections by the end of this year. His father, Dilip Singh, had been elected to the state Assembly on a BJP ticket in 1980.

Chaturvedi's departure is being seen as a setback for Congress, which has lost the last two Assembly elections (2003 and 2008) in the state.

According to sources Assembly speaker seeks the opinion of the House on every resolution before it is passed but in the case of Dr. Mishra’s proposal, the speaker Ishwardas Rohani did not seek the House’s wish and announced unilaterally that House be adjourned sine die.

Bombshell

Meanwhile, the bombshell that Congress’ Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi dropped in the Vidhan Sabha, before ending his 23-year-old association with his party and jumping on the BJP bandwagon, might have come as a stunner for the Congress leadership, as also for most of the ruling party MLAs but the fact is that Rakesh Singh was only enacting a script penned long back—as much as a month back, some say.

Legislative affairs Minister Narottam Mishra has emerged as the hero of the entire episode as it was his ground work that helped BJP stage a coup of sorts, turning the tables on the opposition. To be fair to the Congress, the party’s top brass did have inkling that Rakesh Singh might desert them but no one in the party had an idea of what the BJP had up its sleeve.

Narottam Mishra, it is believed, had started cultivating Rakesh Singh almost a month back. Both hail from the Gwalior- Chambal region.Narottam diligently worked on the grievances Rakesh was nursing against the state Congress leadership, especially Ajay Singh. Rakesh was also game because he was not very confident of his victory from Bhind constituency on Congress ticket in the elections. The deal was almost finalised at a dinner hosted by Mishra at his residence about a week back, in which BJP organisational general secretary Arvind Menon and Rakesh Singh were guests.

Rakesh Singh was cut-up with Congress leadership ever since he was not nominated as the leader of opposition— a position he believed he deserved eminently. The fact that Congress did not come to his aid when he was expelled from the House in the last monsoon session on the charge of insulting the Chair only added to his disenchantment. And by ditching the party at a crucial moment— which Ajay Singh described as ‘ back- stabbing’— Rakesh has more than taken his revenge.

Rumour mills are already abuzz with details of a sum of Rs.25 crore already paid, a warehouse allotted, same seat from Bhind promised along with a ministerial berth, and the assurance that all criminal cases pending against Choudhary Rakesh Singh would be quashed.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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