BHOPAL: Opposition Congress suffered a fresh jolt ahead of the make-or-break 28 assembly bypolls in Madhya Pradesh, as its first-time legislator Rahul Singh Lodhi quit Vidhan Sabha before joining the ruling BJP on Sunday.
Lodhi, the first-time MLA from Damoh seat, did the giant killing act in the 2018 Assembly bypolls by defeating veteran BJP leader and then MP finance minister Jayant Malaiya by a narrow margin.
Importantly, Rahul is the nephew of Pradyuman Singh Lodhi, another first-time Congress MLA, who too had quit from state Assembly membership a few months back and joined BJP. Lodhi, who has been rewarded with chairmanship of MP State Civil Supplies Corporation, is one of the 28 BJP candidates in fray in the November 3 by-elections.
Rahul is the 26th Congress MLA to have quit the Vidhan Sabha since March, and if informed sources within the BJP are to be believed, then two to three more Congress MLAs are in touch with BJP and could switch-over to the saffron party after resigning as legislators.
Interestingly, a few months back, when Pradyuman Singh Lodhi joined BJP, his nephew Rahul Singh had categorically stated that he would never betray Congress by joining BJP.
“In the last six months, a positive atmosphere has been created in the state due to pro-poor and pro-farmer policies of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, owing to which I’ve joined the BJP today,” said Rahul Singh Lodhi.
Reacting to the development, state Congress chief Kamal Nath said, “Knowing well that it’s losing the coming 28 assembly bypolls, BJP is indulging in money bag politics.”
In a related development, another close relative of Pradyuman and Rahul Singh Lodhi, Congress MLA from Banda seat of Sagar district Tarwar Lodhi, made it clear that he cannot even dream of quitting the Vidhan Sabha and joining BJP.
With Sunday’s sudden political development, the total membership of the 230-member MP Vidhan Sabha shrunk further to 29. In the present 201-member House, the ruling BJP has 107 MLAs, which is six more than the 101 simple majority mark, while the prime opposition Congress has 89 MLAs.
The ruling BJP also reportedly enjoys the support of all four independents, two BSP legislators and the lone SP MLA, making its collective strength in the house at 114, which is just two short of simple majority in the full strength 230-member state Assembly, but 13 more than the required 101 seat simple majority in the present 201-member House.
This is being seen by political pundits in MP, as BJP’s two-pronged strategy ahead of the November 3 by-elections. With the BJP's internal surveys suggesting a tough fight for it on all 28 bypoll bound seats, the saffron party, by winning over the independents and Congress lawmakers, is trying to project that the MLAs are getting attracted to its camp. Only five days back, independent MLA Kedar Singh Davar had announced support to BJP.
By it, the BJP wants to influence the undecided voters to vote for a party, which only needs two seats to stay in power rather than voting for Congress, which needs to win all the by-poll bound seats to return to power.
Further, BJP also seems to be working on a back-up plan to ensure that even if they don’t win a reasonable number of seats, still, it will be comfortably placed in power with the support of allies as well as by bringing the House strength lower through resignation of sitting Congress MLAs.