By Chandrakant Naidu
Bhopal, July 25 (IANS) After deflating the BJPs Karnataka euphoria the Congress leadership in Madhya Pradesh has got down to the job of insulating itself against imminent retaliation from a wounded opposition.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath held a meeting of his Cabinet and asked them to guard the party flock. Each minister has been tasked to take responsibility for ten MLAs.
The Two BJP legislators Sharad Kol of Beohari and Narayan Tripathi of Maihar who cross-voted in favour of Congress to help pass a Bill on prevention against mob lynching in Madhya Pradesh Assembly were put in the care of Bhopal MLA Arif Masood and another leader Praveen Pathak. They were escorted to Kamal Nath's residence for dinner late on Wednesday.
The BJP legislature party, on the other hand, got into a huddle under former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan first in the chamber of Gopal Bhargava, the leader of the opposition and then at Chouhan's residence before the senior leaders met at the party office late in the night.
BJP president Amit Shah had sought a report from the leaders and rushed the state unit president Rakesh Singh to Bhopal leaving the Lok Sabha session midway. Late in the night Chouhan also visited the Sangh headquarters to brief senior functionary Dipak Vispute. Shah is keen not to let go of the defiant MLAs. They will be persuaded to change their mind. Singh said the MLAs still belong to BJP.
The BJP would console itself suggesting that Tripathi and Kol may have voted for the Congress but they are still with the BJP. Theoretically true, but the duo has gone too far with their Ghar Wapsi statements to remain in the BJP stable. Tripathi said the BJP humiliates and exploits the MLAs joining from the other parties. Kol, a tribal leader, said he was disillusioned with the BJP's attitude towards the tribals.
Tripathi also pointed to another flaw in the BJP's functioning. He said the top leaders make tall promises to people without taking MLAs into confidence. The MLAs have been reduced to defending the leaders without the merit of the issues. The same is the view of several other BJP MLAs who have been imported from other parties.
They may not need to surrender their membership of the House immediately as they are technically with the Opposition. The BJP can expel them at its own peril especially when the Congress is in a position to lure away some more members.
On arrival late in the evening Singh said Gopal Bhargava's utterances did not reflect the party line. The BJP is not in favour of pulling down any government. Bhargava could have avoided division of votes by getting the party to stage a walkout from the House. But throughout the past seven months the BJP has been sending contradictory signals through its leaders.
Kailash Vijayvargiya, a hatchet man of Amit Shah, who is opposed to Chouhan has consistently suggested the government was BJP's mercy. After the House was adjourned a sullen Bhargava cried foul and said the game was still on. Another senior MLA and former parliamentary affairs Narottam Mishra also said the game was started by the Congress but BJP will take it to the logical conclusion.
The script for Wednesday's drama was prepared over the weekend. The Congress was keen to have a showdown on Monday through a division of votes. Realising that its numbers were short BJP staged a walkout protesting over Sheila Dixit not being mourned by the House as she did not belong to Congress' first family. Kamal Nath had prepared the party for Wednesday's showdown.
Bhargava apparently failed on two counts. One, he often went out of his way to run down Shivraj Singh Chouhan and steal the limelight. Two, it was dereliction of duty on his part not to have kept a watch on Tripathi and Kol while there were reports of them hobnobbing with the Congress.
Not many people know the price tag the two MLAs were carrying. But a faction-ridden Congress will have to check whether it can compensate them and some more suitably while it has not been able to accommodate the existing lot.
Factionalism is a matter of concern for BJP, too. Senior party members Gopal Bhargava, Narottam Mishra, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Shivraj Chouhan don't pull together. The party is wary of more pitfalls before the civic elections due later this year. Kailashvargiya and his son Akash enacted the Indore tamasha to gain an upper hand vis-a-vis the other leaders the bastion of the rightists as both the Indore mayor Malti Gaur and the former LoK Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan are opposed to their brawny ways.