Updated: March 5, 2020 12:36:35 am
The Congress on Wednesday accused the BJP of making a serious bid to destabilise the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh, claiming that the saffron party had lured away legislators and was keeping them against their wish in Gurugram and Bengaluru.
However, the BJP distanced itself from the episode and alleged that factionalism within the ruling Congress was playing out ahead of Rajya Sabha elections—either to prop up or scuttle the chances of Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the two main contenders for the Upper House berth.
While the Congress and BJP can win one Rajya Sabha seat each, the battle for the third seat in the state is up for grabs. The last day of filing nominations for the elections is March 13.
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The 2018 Assembly elections had thrown up a fractured mandate, forcing the Congress to take support from four Independents, two BSP legislators and one SP MLA to form the government. The Congress has 114 members, while the BJP has 107. There are two vacancies after one Congress and one BJP member died after taking office.
On Monday, Digvijaya Singh had alleged that the BJP was trying to poach legislators by offering them between Rs 25 and 35 crore, a charge endorsed by Nath the next day. On Wednesday, both leaders said the crisis was over, and that the BJP had again failed to topple the government.
Singh claimed the BJP had booked two chartered planes and was ready to fly legislators to Bengaluru from Delhi. He said only three Congress members and one Independent went to Bengaluru, and BJP vice-president and former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had to take the second plane to Bhopal because the Congress had managed to persuade others not to join him.
The Congress said it got to know of the bid to topple the government when one of eight legislators holed up in a hotel in Gurugram got in touch with the party.
BJP keeps Kamal Nath government on its toes
Ever since Kamal Nath took oath in December, his government’s wafer-thin majority has made him look vulnerable. The government is supported by seven non-BJP MLAs, including Independents and SP and BSP members, most of whom keep demanding their pound of flesh. There are also many factions within the state Congress. The BJP never misses an chance to play up the dissensions and government’s fragility.
Thereafter, Digvijaya’s son and state minister Jaivardhan Singh and his Cabinet colleague Jitu Patwari reached the hotel to take the legislators with them. Drama ensued, with the ministers accusing the police of misbehaving with them, and suspended BSP MLA Rambai Singh.
While six legislators returned to Bhopal late in the afternoon, the Congress claimed it was confident that the four legislators who had been taken to Bengaluru would come back soon. A minister claimed he had spoken to at least one of the four.
At least two other Congress members who were not taken either to Gurugram or Bengaluru claimed that they, too, had been offered money by the BJP, with a promise of their re-election after resigning.
Nath, alleging that the BJP was trying to destabilise his government, said, “BJP does not believe in democracy and is trying to usurp power through undemocratic means. It believes in conspiracy and money power.”
However, senior Congress leader Umang Singhar insinuated that it was an inside job. “It’s a fight to enter the Rajya Sabha. You are wise to interpret it,” the forest minister—a vocal critic of Digvijaya—tweeted, insisting that the Nath government is safe.
Meanwhile, state BJP president V D Sharma distanced his party from any bid to destabilise the government. He said the government will fall on its own, a statement which was seconded by Chouhan.
Incidentally, in the July session of the Assembly, Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargava had boasted that the government will fall the moment “no 1 and no 2” give their go ahead, an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Within hours, two BJP MLAs had voted against the party line in the Assembly, but the BJP did not crack the whip, given its numbers in the House.
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