Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior Congress leaders are leaving no stone unturned to save the government and are hopeful that a large chunk of the breakaway MLAs in Bengaluru will return.
The ruling Congresshad moved 85 MLAs—including three independents—to Jaipur on Wednesday. Seven ministers and an MLA were retained in Bhopal by CM Kamal Nath for a “special mission”. Those who have stayed back include Sajjan Singh Verma, Govind Singh, PC Sharma, Arif Aqueel, Jaivardhan Singh and Priyavrat Singh. MLA from Vidisha, Sashank Bhargava, is also in Bhopal and said that he did not go to Jaipur because he is on a special mission on the chief minister’s orders.
Talking to the reporters, CM Kamal Nath and former CM Digvijay Singh asserted that the ‘the verdict of the floor test will shock the nation and the government will complete its term’.
While addressing 88 Congress MLAs and four independents at the Legislative Party meeting here after 22 Congress MLAs submitted their resignations, he asked, “They made big promises [to the Congress MLAs] and took them away; how will they fulfill those promises? What about the sincere BJP workers working tirelessly? Today, others have come to take the posts.”
Before leaving for Jaipur, Congress MLA from Kala Peepal and State Youth Congress president Kunal Choudhary said, “No one knows floor management better than CM Kamal Nath. He was the Union minister for parliamentary affairs. The game was started by the BJP, but we will end it.”
The state Congress on Monday claimed that 13 of 19 MLAs of the Scindia faction, who are in Bengaluru, want to return to the party. “These MLAs and ministers did not know that Scindia would join BJP. They thought it was a fight for a Rajya Sabha ticket,” said the state Congress media department chairperson, Shobha Oza. “It is a clash of ideologies now if they are being asked to join the BJP. They are not willing to switch loyalties,” she said.
However, this claim by the Congress fell flat when Scindia loyalist MLAs who are in Bengaluru released a series of videos claiming that they are with Scindia. They also claimed that they are 22 in number and will “follow their leader wherever he goes”. Minister Imarti Devi, an ardent supporter of Scindia, said, “There are 22 of us in Bengaluru and all of us came here willingly and with the blessings of Jyotiraditya Scindia. Maharaj has taken the right decision to keep us here. If we need to jump into a well, we will. But we will follow Scindia wherever he goes. Imarti will be there beside him.”
Another minister, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, said: “Jyotiraditya Scindia has not betrayed Congress. He has been betrayed by the grand old party and Kamal Nath. Despite knowing that Scindia’s hard work brought power after 15 years, he has been ignored, along with his supporters. They keep saying there is no money and yet, development work worth Rs 12,000 crore gets sanctioned for Chhindwara. Are other ministers and MLAs not to be considered for the developmental work in their constituencies? What happened to the promise of farm loan waiver in 10 days? What happened to the promise of stopping corruption and exposing Vyapam scam?”
Sources in the state Congress said that Karnataka Congress Chief DK Shivkumar has been assigned the task of “rescuing” the state MLAs from Bengaluru. “Around 400 policemen are guarding the resort where MLAs remain lodged. Barricades have been put along the two-kilometre radius,” said a senior state Congress leader. Party sources said leaders have tried to get through to some of the MLAs in Bengaluru through their spouses.
Minister for Co-operatives Dr Govind Singh, and Minister for Animal Husbandry Lakhan Singh Yadav have filed a disqualification petition against the six ministers of the Scindia faction who are present in Bengaluru: Tulsiram Silawat, Pradyumn Singh Tomar, Imarti Devi, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Govind Singh Rajput, and Prabhuram Choudhary.
CM Nath had on Tuesday recommended to Governor Lalji Tandon that these six ministers be disqualified. PCC spokesperson and chief of Legal Cell, JP Dhanopia, filed the petition with Speaker NP Prajapati. “There is a provision under Article 191 of the Constitution that you cannot be MLA of one party and benefit another. There is a SC ruling in the case of Ravi S Naik versus Union of India,” he said.
Dhanopia added, “These six ministers contested the election as Congress candidates under the party symbol. They are ministers of a Congress government, but are benefiting another political party. They flew in their plane and have been lodged in a resort by the BJP and are trying to bring down the Congress government. This is all on record. This makes ground for their disqualification as members of the legislative Assembly. The Speaker can take the decision to disqualify them,” he said. The Speaker, however, has said he will wait till the ministers return and submit their resignation personally.
Rift within BJP for the top post
Cracks within the BJP, too, have now surfaced as the party is aiming to form a government again in the state Party sources say that for the post of the chief minister, it’s a tug of war between the three-time CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and chief whip in the Assembly, Narottam Mishra.
A glimpse of this internal conflict was witnessed during the BJP legislative party meeting on Tuesday evening when supporters of Chouhan and Mishra confronted each other and engaged in sloganeering in a show of strength.
Mishra’s followers even raised questions on Chouhan’s role during the political crisis in Congress and the state. With his three terms as the CM, Chouhan is BJP’s most popular leader in MP and an obvious front-runner. Also in the running is Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who is close to PM Modi. And Mishra, the blue-eyed boy of Amit Shah, who wields considerable clout in the party.
On the other hand, sources said that Scindia will be offered a ministerial berth in the Modi government—perhaps a prized portfolio like commerce or heavy industries. So, he does not seem to be part of the race for the post of the chief minister. BJP has reportedly also offered an additional ministerial berth to a minister from among the Scindia loyalists in Bengaluru. Apart from this, all the breakaway MLAs have been assured to be accommodated in boards, corporations and committees in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre, sources say.
In the past, Chouhan had opposed the name of Mishra for the post of leader of opposition after which it went to Bhargava, say sources. Mishra’s name was also proposed for the state party chief, but backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh propelled V D Sharma to the post.
Now, a cold war between Chouhan and Mishra is underway as they see the party inching towards formation of the government. Sources in BJP feel the tussle could come to a naught as the leadership could spring a surprise—just as it did with VD Sharma—and project a new face.