Ever since, Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress party, leading to resignations by 22 MLAs sending shock-waves to the Kamal Nath government, the Congress led Madhya Prades h government has been living beyond its expiration.
The MP Assembly assembled on Monday for the Budget session. In all certainty, it was being believed that the trust vote would be conducted leading to the eventual downfall of the Kamal Nath government.
Even though MP Governor clearly said, “All must follow the rules under the Constitution so that dignity of Madhya Pradesh remains protected,” the Assembly Speaker took the unconscionable decision of adjourning the House till March 26 in view of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Leader of the Opposition Gopal Bhargava read out Governor’s letter to CM Kamal Nath in which he was asked to seek a trust vote immediately after his address. Bhargava, along with former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and party leader Narottam Mishra, requested the Speaker to conduct a floor test as directed by the Governor. But the Speaker said, “Whatever correspondence has taken place is between you and the Governor, not with the Speaker.”
Meanwhile, the BJP has cried foul and has approached the Supreme Court. The apex court will hear BJP’s petition tomorrow for conducting the floor test within 12 hours.
It is well known that the Kamal Nath government will ultimately eat the crow. The MP government has lost majority in the House and its strength has, in fact, fallen below 100 in the 230-member Assembly. As such, it has no moral or Constitutional right to continue in power.
What is happening in Madhya Pradesh is reminiscent of what had happened in Karnataka last year, after the JD (S)-Congress coalition government lost majority in the state. The then Karnataka Legislative Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar had also come under the limelight for his failure to conduct a prompt trust vote. He had repeatedly stalled the floor test and refused to take a call on the rebel MLAs despite Supreme Court’s order clearly giving him the prerogative on the decision.
This practice of the Assembly Speakers deferring trust votes by adjourning Assembly sessions is highly reprehensible. It must be understood that, no doubt, it is the prerogative of the Assembly Speaker to take certain decisions such as adjourning the House, suspending erratic lawmakers and expunging unparliamentary remarks.
However, the power of conducting a trust vote must be distinguished from such procedural powers. Conducting a trust vote when the government loses majority is not a matter of discretion, rather it is a Constitutional mandate which must be treated as such. This is also why it is well settled that the floor test must be conducted promptly without any undue delay.
The Speaker of any Legislative House is a Constitutional post and enjoys the highest status in the legislative house. Occupying such a critical Constitutional post, the Speaker is expected to be bipartisan, instead of favouring any particular group, including the ruling party.
As such the Speaker’s conduct should be of the highest level. It is rather absurd that the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker N. P. Prajapati has deferred the trust vote on the ground of Coronavirus outbreak. How does it make any sense to call an Assembly session where the members have already assembled together and then adjourn it on the basis of the Coronavirus scare? What purpose does it serve to adjourn the Assembly while the lawmakers had already assembled together?
And even otherwise, Assembly session is already going on in one of the worst-affected states- Maharashtra, where Congress is one of the constituents of the ruling coalition and Nana Patole, the Assembly Speaker is a Congress leader too. In fact, even the Parliament session is going on even as we speak. What is so special about the Madhya Pradesh Assembly that legislative Assembly has to be brought to be a grinding halt while it is still going on in other parts of the country.
The MP Assembly Speaker has set a very wrong precedent and will ultimately face a big humiliation just like the Karnataka Speaker. Adjourning the Assembly at such a crucial moment can encourage horse-trading which would be an even bigger abuse of the Constitutional mandate.