Editorial

For a floor test first: On Madhya Pradesh crisis

The BJP might have been morally deviant, but Kamal Nath must prove his majority quickly

Propriety and law require the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh to prove its majority on the floor of the legislature at the earliest. Delaying tactics by Mr. Nath with more than a little help from the Speaker, who has adjourned the Assembly until March 26, go against democratic principles. Equally, Governor Lalji Tandon’s position that the government will be presumed to have lost the majority unless it takes a floor test immediately is untenable. The situation in the State raises other questions of morality and legality also, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) innovates questionable routes to power that it did not win in the election. The Congress had won a narrow victory in the State in 2018, after a 15-year gap. The resignation of 22 party MLAs has pushed its government into a crisis. These MLAs had won against BJP candidates. Their resignations, and the defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress to the BJP, can be explained only as a high form of perfidy and shameless personal greed. That said, it is curious that the Speaker accepted the resignations of six MLAs while keeping the other 16 pending. The Speaker is expected to be non partisan. That he has found a rather ingenious excuse, the pandemic, makes the scene a bit complicated, but not defensible.

The BJP, the Congress and the rebel MLAs have all approached the Supreme Court which has taken up the matter with urgency. The BJP is replaying the script that it has perfected in other States, most notably in Karnataka last year to unseat the Congress-JD(S) government. The Court ruling during the Karnataka crisis was that a time-frame for deciding on resignations by MLAs could not be forced on the Speaker. The Court also ruled that MLAs could not be forced to attend the Assembly session by being issued a whip by the party they belonged to, weakening the lynchpin of the Anti-Defection law. The Congress has alleged that the 16 MLAs are under duress and in detention by the BJP. While the judiciary will force some solution to end the current impasse, the larger question facing democracy is that of trust and transparency. Assemblies are elected for a five-year term, and the Anti-Defection law was brought to raise the threshold and stop the dismantling of a popular mandate through opportunistic manoeuvres, as it is unfolding in Madhya Pradesh. Engineered resignations of lawmakers have become a new tool for sabotaging mandates and camouflaging defections. When the top court adjudicates on the Madhya Pradesh petitions, this larger point must be taken into consideration. The situation demands new guidelines by the Court to deal with the now-familiar malaise, beyond setting a reasonably quick deadline for a floor test.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 3:42:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/for-a-floor-test-first-the-hindu-editorial-on-madhya-pradesh-political-crisis/article31093406.ece

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