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MP: Three Sitting MLAs Join BJP, 32nd Defection Since March 2020

Kashif Kakvi |
Two sitting MLAs who have joined BJP belong to SP and BSP, while the third one is a former Congress leader who contested independently in 2018 and emerged victorious.
MP: Three Sitting MLAs Join BJP, 36th Defection Since March 2020

Bhopal: Three sitting Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Madhya Pradesh have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday ahead of civic polls and the presidential election, marking the 32nd defection in the 230-seated Assembly since the fall of the Kamal Nath government in March 2020 with Jyotiradiya Scindia's exit.

MP, which has witnessed three by-polls on 32 Assembly seats and a Parliamentary Khandwa seat after 2020, the recent defection has paved the way for yet another by-polls on two seats. The state saw the first by-poll on 28 seats in October 2020, the second in April 2021 in Damoh and the third on October 30, 2021, on three seats. Of the 32 Assembly and one Parliamentary seat, the BJP has bagged 21 Assembly constituencies and the lone Parliamentary seat while Congress struggled for only 11 seats.

Besides, a sitting Congress MLA Sachin Birla, who has publicly switched to the BJP on October 24, 2021, in Khandwa during the by-polls, has yet to face disqualification as the Speaker rejected Congress' application seeking his removal from the house on technical grounds.

The three MLAs include Rajesh Kumar Shukla of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Vikram Singh Rana, an independent MLA and former Congress leader, and Sanjeev Kushwaha of Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) joined the saffron party in the presence of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP state president VD Sharma at party office in Bhopal.

The recently inducted MLAs will strengthen the saffron party as they belong to the powerful caste communities of their respective regions of Madhya Pradesh ahead of the local body and panchayat elections which are being seen as the semi-finals before the Assembly elections scheduled in November 2023. Kushwaha is a strong leader from Bhind in the Gwalior-Chambal region; Vikram Rana represents Susner constituency which falls in the Malwa region, while Rajesh Shukla comes from the parched Bundelkhand region.

Sanjeev Kushwaha and his family have been affiliated with the BJP for decades. His father, Ramlakhan Singh Kushwaha, is a four-time BJP MP from Bhind seat of Gwalior-Chambal region and Sanjeev became president of Bhind panchayat a few years ago for the saffron party. But their relations with the saffron party diminished as the party refused the Assembly ticket to Sanjeev in the 2018 Assembly election. On BSP's ticket, he won the Bhind Assembly election and supported Congress to form the government.

Sanjeev, on joining the party, said, "I was part of the saffron party but lost my way. Now, I'm happy to return to my party."

Ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary elections, his father Ramlakhan Singh Kushwaha contested the Lok Sabha polls from the Morena seat on a BSP ticket but was defeated by Narendra Singh Tomar, who became Union Agriculture Minister after the victory.

The independent MLA from the Susner Assembly seat, Vikram Singh Rana, who has joined the BJP, is a former Congress leader. He contested and won from the Susner seat in 2018 after Congress denied him a ticket.

Addressing reporters in the induction programme, Rana said, “When I had won as an independent candidate in 2018, I had in mind to work with BJP. But Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that they would be sitting in opposition as we didn't have the mandate. With development as my agenda, I sided the Congress for the development of my constituency. But when BJP returned, I got the blessing of Shivraj ji, and my constituency is flourishing with developmental works.”

While inducting Rana into the party, state BJP president VD Sharma pointed out, "He is one of the few leaders in Madhya Pradesh who still follow the value-based politics."

Another MLA who has joined the saffron fold is Rajesh Shukla, the first-time MLA from the Bijawar Assembly seat of Chhatarpur district. Shukla, the lone SP MLA in Madhya Pradesh, was suspended from the party after he had voted for BJP's Rajya Sabha candidate Sumer Singh Solanki during the Rajya Sabha elections held in 2020. Speaking to reporters, he said, "It is true that certain things happen only when the time comes. I have been working under your (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) guidance since the Rajya Sabha elections, but I'm finally joining the party today."

As per the poll experts, the by-polls will take place only in two seats (Susner and Bhind) as anti-defection law does not apply to lone SP leaders.

Speaking over the phone, Congress leader cell in-charge JP Dhanopiya said, "The application of Sachin Birla, who joined the BJP in October last year, is still pending. If the Speaker disqualifies two MLAs following the anti-defection law, the by-polls should take place on three seats in next six months."

Raising the question of the Speaker's intention, he said, "The way the speaker is dillydallying the case of Sachin Birla, it indicates that he will do the same in both cases."

After the defection, the saffron party's tally has increased to 130 while the Congress has 96 MLAs; BSP is left with one MLA while another three remain independent and support the government.

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