Madhya Pradesh Governor orders floor test on Monday

Milind Ghatwai
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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath. (File photo)

Rounding off a day of high drama in Madhya Pradesh, Governor Lalji Tandon Saturday ordered a floor test in the state Assembly on Monday, setting the stage for the Kamal Nath-led Congress government to attempt prove its majority.

The Governor said the test would take place immediately after his address in the House. The voting would take place via division and the proceedings would be recorded by an independent videographer, he said. The Governor also said no other business would take place in the Assembly.

The announcement came on a day the Opposition BJP requested Tandon to order a floor test. The government was already in a minority, and could try to avoid facing the House, the BJP said.

The budget session is due to begin on Monday. It would be unconstitutional and undemocratic to allow the government to conduct any business before proving its majority in the House, the BJP said.

Nath had called an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Sunday. This triggered speculation that it could recommend postponement of the assembly session. The CM had met the Governor on Friday to ask him to investigate the circumstances into which 22 Congress legislators were taken to Bengaluru, and their resignations letters were submitted to Speaker N P Prajapati by a former BJP minister in Bhopal.

The BJP delegation led by former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargava called on the Governor around 5 pm and submitted a letter accusing the CM of trying to either lure or pressure the 22 rebels and other legislators. The letter asked the Governor to ensure the trust vote is taken by a ‘division’ and pressing the button; not by a ‘voice vote’. The proceedings should be recorded by an official videographer, it said.

The letter said 22 legislators had resigned and confirmed their decision to the national media. “The government should prove its majority first. Any Assembly proceedings other than the trust vote, or allowing the government to continue in office, would be undemocratic and unconstitutional. Any further delay in holding the trust vote would lead to more horse trading,” the letter said. Later in the evening, the Speaker accepted the resignations of the six Congress MLAs who had been ministers in Nath’s government. These six MLAs are among the 22 in Bengaluru, and had been summoned by the Speaker to confirm in person whether they had signed the letters voluntarily or under duress.

In the evening, the Speaker said the six legislators had already been removed by the Governor from the cabinet, and that they had failed to appear before him until 2.45 pm on Saturday.

“The conduct of the legislators is surprising and they are not fit to remain members of the Assembly,” he said, referring to their statements to the media. The Speaker said he would take a call on the remaining 16 legislators later.

With these six resignations, the number of Congress members in the house has been reduced to 108. The BJP has 107 members. Four Independents, one SP, and two BSP members are with the Congress. There are two vacancies in the 230-member House.

The Congress on Saturday issued a three-line whip asking its legislators to attend the session and to vote with the government.

Also on Saturday, the CM wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking his intervention to release 22 Congress legislators kept at a resort in Bengaluru, and to allow them to attend the budget session of the Assembly.