Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) triggering a crisis situation for the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh (MP). Scindia who is reportedly leading a group of 17 rebel Congress MLAs could join the rival party in the state.
Sources told India Today TV that Scindia met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday night and the BJP is working on ensuring his entry into the BJP fold.
17 Congress MLAs who are believed to be the supporter of Scindia apparently went missing from MP on Tuesday. However, they were traced to Bengaluru in Karnataka. After the developments of Tuesday, MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath huddled into action and called a late-night meeting of his cabinet where around 20 out of 28 ministers resigned reposing faith in his leadership, PTI reported.
Nath alleged that the BJP was adopting immoral ways to "destabilise my government" and vowed not to let it happen.
After the dramatic developments, MP Forest Minister Umang Singhar told PTI, "We have resigned. Now it is up to the chief minister to take a call." Out of the 28 ministers, 20 were present at the cabinet meeting, besides the chief minister.
The minister said they have requested the chief minister to reconstitute the cabinet, in an apparent move to quell dissent in the party by accommodating some of the rebel MLAs in the council of ministers.
Nath, who had met party president Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day, had cut short his Delhi visit and rushed to Bhopal where he called the urgent cabinet meeting at around 10 pm after a faction led by senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia who, along with at least 17 legislators, went incommunicado, sparking intense speculation about the fate of his government.
Many of these legislators, including ministers, had flown to Bengaluru Monday morning.
Scindia, however, kept his cards close to his chest and there was no word from him on the developments.
The BJP, meanwhile, called a meeting of its MLAs on Tuesday, where sources said Shivraj Singh Chouhan may be elected as the leader of the legislature party.
Trouble has been brewing in the Congress ahead of Rajya Sabha polls as it had last week accused the BJP of trying to topple its government after 10 MLAs of the ruling party and those of its allies travelled to Haryana, though the BJP had denied the charge.
Of them, eight had come back and many of them wanted ministerial berths, according to sources. However, two Congress MLAs have not yet returned.
Scindia and Nath have fallen out over the post of the state Congress president, which is currently held by the chief minister.
While calls made to Scindia by PTI remained unanswered on Monday, mobile phones of at least six ministers who are supporters of the Guna royal are switched off.
The ministers whose mobile phones were switched off were health minister Tulsi Silavat, labour minister Mahendra Singh Sisodia, transport minister Govind Singh Rajput, women and child development minister Imarti Devi, food and civil supplies minister Pradyumna Singh Tomar and school education minister Dr Prabhura Choudhary.
Sources said several legislators, including a few ministers, arrived in Bengaluru by chartered flights and were staying at an undisclosed location.
"It is a fight for survival of Scindia now. It is a do or die battle for Scindia and his group which is being sidelined," a source close to the scion of erstwhile Gwalior kingdom said.
Earlier in the day, a section of Congress leaders, mostly of Kamal Nath camp, demanded that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra be nominated from the state for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls, seen by many as an attempt to thwart Scindia's chance to reach the Upper House.
Nath, who left for Delhi on Sunday night, was supposed to come back to Bhopal on March 12 after celebrating Holi, but returned after meeting Sonia Gandhi in the national capital, and went into a huddle with Digvijay Singh and other senior leaders at his residence, before calling the cabinet meeting.
After the meeting with Gandhi, Nath said any decision on the party's nominees for Rajya Sabha polls would be taken unanimously.
"All issues were discussed with the Congress president and everything will be resolved unanimously," he told reporters in Delhi.
The Madhya Pradesh chief minister, however, skirted the issue of whether Scindia can be nominated for the Rajya Sabha seat from the state.
Even as the government appeared to be on a sticky wicket, Public Relations Minister PC Sharma claimed, "It will last its full five-year term and there was no political crisis."
"Just now we have handed over our resignations to the chief minister at the cabinet meeting, another minister Sajjan Singh Verma told reporters, adding that it was to express their solidarity with Nath.
Earlier Nath told the cabinet meeting, "I will not allow (anyone) to destabilise my government with the help of mafia."
"I have dedicated all my life to serving the people, but the BJP has indulged in immoral ways to destabilise my government. My biggest strength is people's faith and their love showered on me. I will not allow anyone to destabilise the government elected by the people," he said.
While factionalism has reared its head again in the Congress, the BJP too was having some anxious moments due to a couple of MLAs.
The Rajya Sabha terms of Congress veteran Digvijay Singh, and BJP leaders Prabhat Jha and Satyanarayan Jatiya will end on April 9.
While the Congress, which was voted to power in MP after 15 years in 2018, has 114 MLAs, the opposition BJP has 107 legislators.
Four Independent MLAs, two lawmakers of the Bahujan Samaj Party and one legislator of the Samajwadi Party are supporting the Congress-led state government.
As per the arithmetic in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the two parties are sure to win one Rajya Sabha seat each, but a tussle is likely for the third seat.
Two assembly seats are vacant following the demise of a Congress and a BJP legislator.
BJP MLA Narayan Tripathi had frequented Nath's residence last week and had, along with another legislator Sharad Kol, missed the saffron party's meet on March 3.
Tripathi and Kol had gone against the party and voted in favour of a Congress-sponsored bill in the state Assembly in July last year.
The BJP has called a meeting of its 107 MLAs on Tuesday ahead of the March 16 budget session of the state Assembly and the Rajya Sabha polls for three seats scheduled on March 26.
Sources in Delhi said former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan may be elected as the leader of the BJP legislature party in the meeting on Tuesday.
Chouhan, they added, has briefed the top party brass, including its president J P Nadda, about the developments in the state.
The party had sent a list of 20 to 22 names, including that of national general secretaries Ram Madhav and Kailash Vijayvargiya, to its central poll panel to pick two candidates for the RS polls.
Members of a state's Legislative Assembly vote in the Rajya Sabha elections.
(With PTI inputs.)