Bhopal, June 8: Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh seems to have painted himself into a corner. The wily “Raja of Raghogarh”, whom the BJP should thank profusely for facilitating its 15-year rule in Madhya Pradesh from 2003 to 2018, and then for a quick return in just 15 months, is now insecure as voting for the Rajya Sabha polls are less than two weeks away.
Though Digvijaya has ruled out the possibility of another rebellion in the party, he wants the anti-defection law to be made stringent. He spoke with some media persons to blame the BJP for making horse-trading almost an essential feature of politics.
He said the ruling party had made a lot of money and was using it to buy MLAs, destabilise governments and expand its presence in the Rajya Sabha. He was apparently referring to the MLAs changing sides in Gujarat on the eve of the Rajya Sabha elections. It is hard to say with any certainty if more MLAs would be changing sides elsewhere too, he said quickly adding that “Those who wanted to leave the party have left (in MP). Those who decided to stay in the party have passed through a tough test. So, this (defection) is not going to happen in MP.”
Digvijaya says a strict anti-defection law which Rajiv Gandhi wanted to introduce in 1985 should be brought in to prohibit defecting public representatives from contesting elections for six years.
The former chief minister was the first to file his papers for the Rajya Sabha when the nominations opened in March. He also ensured that Jyotiraditya Scindia was made the party’s second-choice candidate with lurking uncertainty about his election. In the present MP Assembly of 206 members —with 24 vacancies– a candidate needs 53 votes to win a seat.
The candidates in the fray are: Digvijaya Singh and Phool Singh Baraiya (Cong); Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sumer Singh Solanki (BJP). Congress has 92 MLAs in the House and BJP 107. Four seats are held by independents, two by the BSP and one by the SP. The Congress would need 106 votes to win the second seat — 14 more than what it has. Even with seven MLAs who supported it from outside deciding to continue backing it, the Congress would need seven more.
With the likelihood of seven BJP MLAs voting against their candidates, the BJP is as worried in MP as Congress is in Gujarat. The ruling party has been delaying the expansion of ministry till the Rajya Sabha elections to avert cross voting by MLAs who would not be accommodated. The Congress would normally expect a smooth passage for its first candidate Digvijaya Singh.
Baraiya was brought into the picture after the Scindia supporters rebelled against the Congress to join the BJP. Of the 24 by-elections caused by the rebellion and by the death of two MLAs, 16 are to be held in the Gwalior-Chambal region where Baraiya can influence the Jatavs.
A group within Congress wants Baraiya to be the first choice to help during the ensuing by-elections. This move has PCC chief Kamal Nath’s tacit support. That apparently drove Digvijaya Singh to suddenly call up some media persons to raise alarm about defections.