Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Kamal Nath on Sunday accused the Centre of delaying the countrywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak so that a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government could be formed in the state, the Hindustan Times reported.
“I resigned on March 20, but [the] lockdown was announced after [Bharatiya Janata Party leader] Shivraj Singh Chouhan took oath as chief minister on March 23,” Nath said at a press briefing held via video conference. “Rahul Gandhi had said in February itself that the coronavirus pandemic will turn into a big problem but nothing was done then,” he added. “It is obvious Parliament was run only to ensure that Madhya Pradesh Assembly could function and the Congress government could be toppled.”
Chouhan took oath three days after Nath stepped down from the post hours before his government was to face a floor test in the Assembly. The demand for a floor test had arisen after long-time Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP, following which 22 MLAs who were his loyalists also quit the ruling party. Chouhan’s government won the trust vote in the Assembly.
Nath said that as the chief minister, he had taken several preventive measures to contain the outbreak. “We ordered the closure of shopping malls, schools and other public places on March 8,” he said. “There was no lockdown [at that time], but we took measures looking at the gravity of the situation. But when the Speaker announced that he is adjourning the House over Covid-19 fears, he was mocked.”
The senior Congress leader also alleged that testing for Covid-19 is not being done in villages of the state. “Madhya Pradesh borders five states, and 25% to 30% of the state’s population has come back and is living in villages,” said Nath. “They are not being tested, what about these people?”
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Meanwhile, Congress leader Vivek Tankha wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging the Centre to impose President’s Rule in Madhya Pradesh if Chouhan is unable to form his Cabinet, in order to manage the “extreme crisis” of the pandemic, according to The Indian Express.
Tankha said it was a “one-man show unconstitutionally thrusted upon 7.5 crore people of Madhya Pradesh”, and that it has “gravely impacted and imperiled the war against the coronavirus”. Ever since he took oath on March 23, Chouhan is the only minister in his Cabinet.
Referring to the situation in Indore, which has recorded several Covid-19 deaths at a rate which is nearly three times the national average, and of Bhopal, where more than 45 health department officials have tested positive, the Congress leader said: “Madhya Pradesh does not have an accountable Cabinet, much less a health minister. A one-man government without a Cabinet is an unthinkable constitutional anathema.”
“The state deserves to be governed by a Cabinet and can’t be deprived of this constitutional privilege in this extreme crisis,” Tankha said. “Alternatively, if the chief minister is unable to form his cabinet because of issues beyond his control then a case of breakdown of constitutional machinery is self evident.”
Madhya Pradesh has reported 532 cases of Covid-19, with 36 deaths, so far. Meanwhile, the Union health ministry has confirmed a total of 8,356 coronavirus cases in India, and said that 273 patients have died. Out of the total number of cases, 7,367 people are being treated, 715 people have recovered, and one person has returned to their country.