In Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Nehru Out, Ambedkar In, Congress Protests

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In Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Nehru Out, Ambedkar In, Congress Protests

The portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and (now) Dr BR Ambedkar stand behind the Speaker’s Chair.


The new BJP government in Madhya Pradesh held its first Assembly session Monday and triggered a row after a portrait of the late former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was swapped out for one of the late Dr BR Ambedkar. The portrait of Nehru was one of two behind the Speaker’s Chair; the other is one of Mahatma Gandhi and that has not, so far, been removed.

The change prompted protests from the opposition Congress, which accused its rival of “working day and night to erase history”. “We condemn the removal of Nehruji‘s photograph from the Madhya Pradesh Assembly,” Abbas Hafeez, the party’s spokesperson, posted on X (formerly Twitter).

“It is unfortunate for the country that the BJP is in power today. The BJP is working day and night to erase history. Removing the picture of the country’s first Prime Minister, which had been hung in the Assembly for decades, shows the mentality of the BJP,” Mr Hafeez said.

“The portrait should be put back up immediately… otherwise we will put up Nehruji‘s photograph at the same place,” he declared, setting the stage for an explosive face-off in the Assembly.

The first session of the Assembly – this will be a shortened four-day winter session – began with pro-tem Speaker Gopal Bhargava administering the oath to the new MLAs. The session also saw the Congress’ Umang Singhar, who won the Gandhwani seat, elected Leader of the Opposition.

The BJP retained control of Madhya Pradesh after a thumping win in last month’s election; the party claimed 163 of 230 seats and the Congress, which harboured hopes of an upset in a state dominated by the saffron party since 2003, had to be content with just 66 seats, down 48 from the last time.

For the full-time Speaker’s post, the BJP has nominated former Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Mr Tomar was one of three ex-union ministers to be fielded by the BJP in this election.

Last week the BJP, after days of negotiation, finally named a Chief Minister for the state.

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And it was not veteran leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The ruling party sprang a big surprise and named three-time MLA and former Education Minister Mohan Yadav to the top post.

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Speaking to NDTV, Mr Yadav insisted there is no pressure on him and the ruling party to form a cabinet immediately. “There is no hurry, it will be formed soon,” he said.

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