Long-time Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia crossed over to the BJP on Wednesday, leaving the Madhya Pradesh government tottering precariously and both parties scrambling to send their legislators far away from the state capital – and from the machinations of each other.
While Madhya Pradesh’s ruling Congress, pushed to the brink of collapse after the resignation of 22 legislators close to Scindia, herded about 90 of its legislators to resorts near Jaipur, the state’s Opposition BJP sent its MLAs to a luxury hotel in Gurgaon.
And 19 of those who resigned and whose letters were taken to the Speaker by the BJP are secluded in a hotel in Bengaluru.
As the number crunching intensified and resort politics played out in ‘friendly states’ – Rajasthan is ruled by the Congress and Haryana and Karnataka by the BJP – Scindia formally joined the BJP in the presence of party president J P Nadda and said the
country’s future is secure in the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Calling Madhya Pradesh a piece of his heart (‘dil ka bhag’), Scindia said at a press conference with Nadda by his side his dream for the state had been shattered in the last 18 months – when the Congress won the assembly elections and Kamal Nath became chief minister.
Welcoming him into the BJP, Nadda said he was “joining his family”.
“This is a joyous day for BJP and me personally. Today, I remember Rajmata Scindia… The entire family is with BJP,” former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
Amid expectations that he will be the BJP’s nominee from the state for the Rajya Sabha, Scindia said he is “pained” and “distressed” at not being able to serve the people and described the Congress as a party living in denial.
His resignation from the Congress along with MLAs “loyal” to him on Tuesday has put a big question mark over the future of the Kamal Nath-led government, which came to power with a wafer-thin majority in the 230-member assembly. The effective strength is now 228.
It also has the support of four Independents, two BSP legislators and one SP MLA, but some may now switch sides to the BJP.
If the resignations of the 22 MLAs are accepted, the strength of the assembly will fall to 206. The Congress, on its own, will then be left with 92 seats while the BJP has 107 seats with the magic number for a majority being 104.
The Congress expressed confidence it will win a trust vote in the assembly.
“We have 95 MLAs here (at the Bhopal airport). Independent MLAs and BSP and SP legislators are also supporting us,” state minister Priyavrat Singh said in Bhopal before taking off for Jaipur.
“We will prove our majority. We will save the government,” senior Congress leader from the state Digvijaya Singh told PTI.
He said 13 of the 22 rebel MLAs in the state have given an assurance that “they are not leaving the Congress”. They also said they don’t want to quit the party and were led away only to create pressure on the leadership to nominate Scindia to the Rajya Sabha,
“We did not anticipate that Scindia will quit the Congress… That was a mistake,” Singh said.
Scindia, Singh said, could have been a Congress nominee to the Rajya Sabha but “only Modi-Shah” can give a Cabinet post to the “over-ambitious” leader.
The senior leader also claimed Scindia was roped in by the BJP after Chouhan failed to topple the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.