“Hum mantriyon ke baap hain. Hamne yeh sarkaar banayee hai (Ministers are nothing before me. I have made this government),” declared Rambai, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislator from Patharia constituency in Madhya Pradesh. And none of the ministers of the Kamal Nath government dared to deny her claim. Next, Rambai padlocked a ministerial-level B-type bungalow in the posh 74 Bungalows locality of Bhopal, saying it had been allotted to her. The lock was broken by the Public Works Department (PWD), but instead of getting the MLA booked for trespass, PWD minister Sajjan Singh Verma merely described her as a “bit impatient”.
Rambai, on her part, was unrelenting. “I was told by the chief minister, the Speaker and the PWD minister that I can have whichever bungalow I want. They said I have to just lock a bungalow and it would be mine,” the MLA said.
It’s not difficult to guess why the government is being so accommodative with Rambai and even taking insults from her. She is one of the six ‘outsiders’ on whom depends the continuation of the Congress in office. Surviving on a razor-thin majority, the Kamal Nath government has become vulnerable to all sorts of pulls and pressures. His party has 114 MLAs in the 230-member assembly, and has the support of four Independents, an MLA from the Samajwadi Party (SP) and two from the BSP. The SP and BSP MLAs are demanding their pound of flesh in the form of ministerial berths. Rambai had said she would settle for nothing less than a cabinet berth, and so has the SP MLA.
In fact, immediately after Kamal Nath was sworn in as CM on November 17, 2018, BSP supremo Mayawati demanded that the ‘political’ cases against her party workers be withdrawn. And the new government complied. Those in the know...