The Congress-led government in Madhya Pradesh was pushed to the brink Monday by a series of political developments with at least 11 MLAs and six Ministers close to party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia snapping contact with their colleagues, the Opposition BJP entering into a huddle with its national leadership, and 20 other state Ministers submitting their resignations in a show of support for Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
Party sources told The Indian Express that Labour Minister Mahendra Sisodia, Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi, Transport Minister Govind Rajput, Health Minister Tulsi Silawat, School Education Minister Prabhuram Chaudhary, and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pradyumna Tomar were among those who have broken ties with the state Congress leadership.
The crisis is expected to escalate over the next 24 hours, with the BJP calling a meeting of its legislature party in Bhopal Tuesday evening, six days before the state Budget session begins on March 16. The Congress legislature party will also meet Tuesday.
State BJP sources told The Indian Express that “the party is now ready to play the game” and that “the national leadership is in the loop”. But a senior party leader said it was too early to say whether the state government would fall.
Kamal Nath, meanwhile, rushed back to Bhopal after meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi Monday afternoon when he was told to ensure that there is no threat to the government. Late Monday, PWD Minister Sajjan Singh Verma said that 20 Ministers attended a meeting at the Chief Minister’s official residence in Bhopal and submitted their resignations while requesting Nath to “restructure the Cabinet”.
Nath also met the other senior state leader Digvijaya Singh. Scindia remained “out of contact”, with party sources saying that his supporters have moved to Bengaluru.
In a late-night statement, Nath accused the BJP of trying to “destabilise” his government through “illegal means”. “The BJP is frustrated because it had lost power in seven states in the last few months and is trying to topple the Congress government before it completes five years,” he alleged.
But Congress sources told The Indian Express that at the heart of the latest tussle in the party’s MP unit is the race for the two Rajya Sabha seats, which the party can win out of the three that fall vacant on April 9, and the post of the state party chief, which is currently held by Nath.
Both Digvijaya, whose Rajya Sabha term ends next month, and Scindia are eying two of those seats while the third is expected to go to the BJP, given the thin margin that separates the two parties in the state assembly. Scindia, sources said, wants his name as the first-choice candidate to ensure a berth in the Upper House.
Sources close to Scindia said his fight is for “justice” with “no intention to rock the boat”. They say he has been “ignored” and is “upset” with the “one-man show” in the state in a reference to Nath. His supporters suspect there could be “foul play” if he is not the first choice. The last date for filing nominations for the three seats is March 13.
Sources said most of the MLAs and Ministers who have snapped contact, and are believed to have moved to Bengaluru, belong to the Gwalior-Chambal belt where Scindia wields influence. In Bengaluru, police sources said that a group of 25, including legislators from MP and their associates, arrived in the city on chartered flights Monday afternoon. The group has been lodged in a “gated community in the far eastern part” of Bengaluru, sources said.
In Delhi, BJP sources said Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was engaged “hands-on” in the evolving situation. Sources said Tomar was part of a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and former MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The latest development follows a week-long drama that began with allegations that about 10 legislators, including six Congress MLAs, had moved to Gurugram and Bengaluru. Eight of those MLAs, including one Independent, and one SP and two BSP MLAs, have since returned. Two Congress legislators are still “out of reach”, sources said.
The 2018 assembly elections had thrown up a fractured mandate, leaving the Congress with 114 members in the 230-strong assembly. The total strength has since been reduced to 228, following the deaths of two legislators. Currently, apart from the 114 Congress legislators, the government has the support of four Independents, two BSP MLAs and one SP MLA. The BJP had 109 members.
Tuesday, incidentally, marks the 75th birth anniversary of Scindia’s father, the late Madhavrao Scindia.
(With Liz Mathew/Delhi & Johnson T A/Bengaluru)
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines