Cross-voting by a BJP MLA in the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls in Madhya Pradesh has placed the party in an ugly situation. BJP always prides itself for discipline within the party but it has not initiated any action against the errant MLA even two days after he cross-voted. Rather, it is trying to pose as if cross-voting was an insignificant incident and is not worth taking note of. There are reasons why the party wants to give a quiet burial to the incident.
The MLA in question has been identified as Gopilal Jatav who represents Guna (SC) constituency in the Assembly. This is supposed to be the area of influence of Jyotiraditya Scindia who had deflected from Congress to BJP in March, earlier this year. Along with him, 22 MLAs (21 of them belonging to the Congress and one independent) had also resigned from the Assembly and joined BJP. Now all of them are aspirants for the BJP ticket for the by-elections to fill the vacancies and this has caused heart-burning among the BJP leaders and workers in these constituencies.
Besides, the BJP workers in the Gwalior-Chambal region have for decades played their politics on the anti-Scindia plank. Now suddenly they are being asked to accept Jyotiraditya Scindia as their leader. While several BJP leaders were reported to have conveyed to the party leadership their reservations about accepting Scindia as their leader, Gopilal Jatav apparently decided to express his disapproval of Scindia’s leadership by voting for the Congress candidate rather than for Scindia who was the BJP nominee. He had won from Ashoknagar Assembly constituency in 2013 and Guna constituency in 2018 on a strong anti-Scindia rhetoric. Both the Assembly constituencies (reserved for SC) are part of Scindia’s traditional Lok Sabha constituency of Guna, though he was defeated from there in last year’s general elections.
Cross-voting by a veteran party MLA has shaken the BJP from Bhopal to Delhi and the leaders are said to be hashing out as how best to deal with the situation. Some party leaders are said to be in favour of not taking any disciplinary action, at least for the time being. There is a fear that any action against Jatav may make the anti-Scindia sentiment come out in the open and that may be joined by others who are afraid of being displaced from their traditional constituencies by the 22 defectors from the Congress.
The by-elections to the 24 constituencies (one MLA each of BJP and Congress had died earlier) may be held any time in the next two few months. As many as 16 of these constituencies are in the Gwalior-Chambal region, half a dozen being reserved constituencies. The region has a substantial number of SC population. Action against Gopilal Jatav, an SC MLA, may not only accentuate anti-Scindia sentiments but also antagonise the SC voters. It is, therefore, generally felt that Jatav may escape any disciplinary action from the party.