The Madhya Pradesh government’s proposal to create a Legislative Council, as promised in the election manifesto of the ruling Congress, has created a split in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kusum Mehdele, 76, a former minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan ministry, is supporting the proposal even though most of her party colleagues have come out against it.
According to Mehdele, the Assembly had reached a consensus on the formation of the upper house during the state’s Sunderlal Patwa-led BJP government between 1990-1992. Mehdele, who was a Vidhan Sabha member then, says the issue was forgotten midway through the term after the government was dismissed post-Babri Masjid demolition.
Mehdele, who could not contest the Assembly elections last year due to the age bar, says the Upper House can help the government get experts from diverse walks of life on board to improve decision-making and governance. In her tweet the senior politician says the upper house will help even non-political persons to contribute to the progress of the state.
The Congress has welcomed Mehdele’s views. Party spokesperson said the senior leader was with the truth.
For 64 years now Madhya Pradesh has just had a unicameral legislature with the Vidhan Sabha.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath had promised formation of a Legislative Council in the state. “The process that includes getting approvals from the Cabinet, the Assembly and the Centre had been started last month,” said Law and Legislative Affairs Minister P.C. Sharma.
Last Tuesday, Chief Secretary S.R. Mohanty held the first meeting with officials of different departments to prepare the roadmap for formation of the legislative council.
Andhra, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh currently have the bicameral legislature – with both the Assembly and the Council.
The proposed upper house in Madhya Pradesh is likely to have around 75 members, the minister said. The state has a 230-member Legislative Assembly.
BJP leaders, however, have opposed the move, saying it will put additional financial burden on the state exchequer. Former chief minister Shivraj Chouhan says he does not see any relevance of a bicameral house now in the changed times.
“I personally oppose this move. I do not see any other reason behind the move except that the Congress regime wants to increase the number of Cabinet members. This (setting up of council) would put additional financial burden of Rs 100 crore on the cash-strapped state exchequer in five years,” said former minister Narottam Mishra.
Mishra also questioned the rationale behind setting up the council, for which members are not directly elected by voters, but can be inducted as ministers.
“What are the benefits of the formation of the Vidhan Parishad to the state? What is the state losing without the council? There is no need for the council in the state,” he said.
State BJP vice-president and MLA Rameshwar Sharma said the move is aimed at “adjusting” Congress leaders, who are not able to “enjoy power”.
“Formation of the Legislative Council is nothing but a way to oblige Congress leaders who are angry because they are out of the government. But before forming the Council, the Congress government should tell the people what happened to unfulfilled promises of farm loan waiver, unemployment allowance and pension to destitute, among others,” Sharma said. The BJP MLA said roads across the Congress-ruled state are in a bad shape and government employees are not getting salaries on time.