BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath has earned a "fresh mandate" as the leader of the state's ruling combine by playing the victim card.
He tossed up the question of government's stability at the first meeting of the combined Legislature Party of Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and independent MLAs on Sunday.
This was the first meeting of the state's ruling alliance partners since the Congress' disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha elections and was attended by former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, former State Congress Committee chief Suresh Pachauri, state in-charge Deepak Bavaria and newly elected MP from Chhindwara Nakul Nath.
Kamal Nath referred to Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) barbs like the 'minority government' and 'lame-duck dispensation' and said: "You elected me leader of the Legislature Party, made me the Chief Minister, now you have to decide whether I should quit or stay on."
The purpose was served as all the MLAs expressed trust in the Chief Minister and offered to prove their support through a floor test during the Assembly session. "We are also ready to be paraded before the Governor," they said in unison.
While the non-Congress MLAs assured the Chief Minister that their support was unequivocal and his government would complete its full term, Congress legislators Arif Masood, Hardeep Singh Dung and Kunal Chaudhary asked him to accept the BJP's floor test challenge.
Some Congress MLAs also did some plain speaking to drive home vital points. Bisahulal Singh said: "More than 30 legislators in the ruling combine are from Scheduled Tribes and the government draws considerable strength from them. Yet they were not given due attention in the Cabinet-formation."
Hardeep Singh Dung said the bureaucrats do not respect the legislators. "They must be upbraided for this," he added.
Some legislators also talked of the losses caused due to the induction of some BJP rebels in the Congress in Gwalior-Chambal areas. The Chief Minister offered to hold a separate meeting to discuss the issues.
One of the ministers demanded investigations in past scams. The other ministers also suggested that investigations into scams in the last 15 years should be expedited. The state government has already ordered investigations into the e-tender scandal, Makhanlal Journalism University irregularities and corruption during the Simhastha fair at Ujjain and recruitment and examination scams through Vyapam.
Kamal Nath also cautioned the legislators against a misinformation campaign by the rival party, but also to the machinations of some faction leaders. "Audios and videos based on fallacious information are being circulated in the social media. Be careful of these and alert others to guard against misinformation," he told the meeting.
He also referred to the fissures within the Congress. "Congress workers often work for faction leaders, instead of the party," he said.
Accusations are flying thick and fast about who let down whom. State unit treasurer Govind Goyal, a known supporter of Digvijaya Singh, targeted Kamal Nath, on the social media for not sparing enough time for organisational activity. Goyal also questioned the decision to field Digvijay Singh from Bhopal, instead of Rajgarh.
Congress leaders also fail to explain the mystery behind massive margins of defeat of some party stalwarts. Kamal Nath, who claimed the party would romp home with 22 seats, has not come up with any explanation for the disastrous show.
Congress had three seats out of the 29 from the state in the outgoing Parliament. It has ended up with just one seat -- Chhindwara represented by Kamal Nath's son Nakul Nath. However, his 37,000 votes victory margin is an apology to Kamal Nath's 1,16,537 vote margin win in the 2014 polls. Nakul Nath has also been rejected by the rural voters.
The Congress candidates lost 15 seats by more than three lakh votes. Three candidates lost by more than five lakh, while only two candidates contained the margin to less than one lakh votes. The overall gap between the Congress and the BJP was more than 87 lakh votes.
Most Congress ministers failed to boost voting in their Assembly segments during the Lok Sabha elections. Not just that, in a matter of six months, the ruling party has forfeited its Assembly polls advantage.
So even if Digvijaya Singh had contested from his home town of Rajgarh, the picture would be no different. The Congress was ahead by over 47,000 votes in Raghogarh and Khilchipur Assembly constituencies, represented by his son Jayvardhan Singh and nephew Priyavrat Singh. The party trailed by over 43,000 in these segments during the Lok Sabha elections.