Madhya Pradesh: A Captive Chief Minister
During the recent bickering on the issue of ministry formation, the erstwhile socialist group alleged that the Chief Minister, Kailash Joshi, was a captive chief minister acting on the dictates of the Jana Sangh ‘caucus’. If he is, no one but the socialists are to blame for it.
At the time of the election of the leader of the Janata legislature party, the socialist support was instrumental in tilting the balance overnight in the favour of the Joshi, a Jana Sangh man. His only opponent, V.K.Sakhlecha, also from Jana Sangh, who was going very strong at the moment, had to bow out of the contest.
That made Joshi, although he was a Jana Sangh man, something of a socialist nominee!
However, with the withdrawal of socialist support, Joshi had to lean heavily on the group led by Sakhlecha in his fight against the rebel group. An excellent political strategist, Sakhlecha has become de facto chief minister of the State.
Joshi is now fully in the grip of Sakhlecha and company, whom the socialist group refers to as the ‘caucus’.
Earlier, the unanimous election of Joshi, 48, with his RSS background, as the leader of the Janata legislature party had come as a complete surprise to political observers who were looking forward to a fierce contest for chief ministership in the State.
In fact, the battle lines had been drawn and the party leadership had made all the necessary arrangements to conduct the election by secret ballot.
But in an unexpected development, the only other contender for leadership, Sakhlecha, a sitting Jana Sangh member of the Rajya Sabha who was also elected in the recent assembly election, withdrew from the race when the balance swung overnight in favour of Joshi.
Sakhlecha, it was obvious from the very beginning, had sought to enter State politics with eyes on chief ministership. It was in this background that a furore had been created over his candidature for the State Assembly.
While the Jana Sangh wanted to give him a ticket for the a Vidhan Sabha seat, the socialists unsuccessfully opposed his nomination on the ostensible ground that he had been out on parole – allegedly by hobnobbing with the Congress – for several months during the Emergency.
During the recent bickering, the socialists again raised this question; they said they were not as much concerned about the ministerial quota for their party as the fact that a man with a shady past had been included in the cabinet.
Before the elections, there were quite a few contenders for chief ministership but they were bumped off by the electorate. Among these were Congress(Organisation), veteran Moolchand Deshlahera, who is known in the State politics for his controversial role in the defeat of former chief minister Kailash Nath Katju, and Mr S.S. Vishnar, who jumped on the Congress For Democracy(CFD) bandwagon only on the eve of the assembly poll. But both lost security deposits at the hand of their Congress rivals.
Significantly, whatever discomfiture the Janata Party suffered in the State was in respect of CFD candidates who joined it late.
The Jana Sangh group now says that the socialists are talking in terms of group representation and they have not merged their identity completely.
But it was the Jana Sangh group itself which had staked its claim for chief ministerial office on the ground that of the 230 members of the Janata Party in the 320 members House, 150 belonged to the former Jana Sangh.
Though Joshi was also in the fray, by all available indications Sakhelcha was going strong. It was at this juncture that the socialists decided to act as the balancing force and declared their support for Joshi.
Mr Sakhelcha was informed of the new situation a few hours before the elections meeting. Accepting his defeat gracefully, he himself proposed Joshi’s name for leadership.
And so, out goes the Congress, which had ruled the State for two decades except for a brief spell of Samyukt Vidhayak Dal (SVD) coalition rule.
That was ten years ago. The ramshackle SVD regime had come to power through horse-trading and political defections that toppled the then Chief Minister, D.P.Mishra.
Once in 1962 too, the Congress was on the verge of being ousted from power when it failed to get a clear majority. But it engineered defections and managed to form a government.
Unlike in the past, the second non-Congress government has an electoral mandate secured in no uncertain terms. Whether it will be able to retain that mandate is another matter.
Infighting over ministry-formation has lowered the image of the party.
Frontier 23 July 1977