Congress MLAs arrive at Raja Bhoj Airport to leave for Jaipur in Bhopal on Wednesday. (PTI)
NEW DELHI/BHOPAL :
Parties herd MLAs to resorts in ‘friendly States’
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
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. Scindia, 49, belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior and has family links with both the Congress and the BJP. While his father Madhavrao Scindia was in the Congress, his grandmother Vijaya Raje Scindia was one of the founder members of the BJP and his aunts Yashodhara Raje Scindia and Vasundhara Raje Scindia are active members of the BJP .
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.
The former Union Minister and four-time Congress MP, known to be close to Rahul Gandhi, said the party is not what it used to be. 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 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. He added that Scindia was offered the post of Deputy Chief Minister but wanted his nominee. However, Kamal Nath refused to accept a “chela”, he said. Nakul Nath, Congress MP and Kamal Nath’s son, also exuded confidence the Government would survive.
“They (the MLAs) were misled and taken to Bengaluru,” Nakul Nath said outside Parliament, describing Scindia’s exit from the party as a “dent”. Congress MLAs from the central Indian State were also certain the Government would prove its majority. “We are going to Jaipur with our MLAs. We will stay there together,” State Minister Sajjan Singh Verma, considered a close confidant of Kamal Nath, told reporters. Attacking the BJP, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “destabilising” the elected Congress Government in Madhya Pradesh.
Kamal Nath Govt will survive, say MP Cong MLAs
SEVERAL of around 90 Congress MLAs who landed in Jaipur amid a political crisis in Madhya Pradesh triggered by former Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit from the party told reporters that there was no threat to the Kamal Nath Government and it will survive. The MLAs arrived at the Jaipur airport around 2.30 pm in a special flight from Bhopal and were received by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot along with other party leaders. Gehlot has accused the BJP of horse-trading in Madhya Pradesh after Scindia’s exit and the resignation of 22 MLAs loyal to him from the Madhya Pradesh Assembly. One of the two Jaipur resorts where the legislators will be staying is Buena Vista where the party MLAs from Maharashtra were lodged in November last year. In a conversation with reporters, a party legislator said, “The Kamal Nath Government will complete its term. There is no threat. We all are together.”
He said the Congress MLAs who supported Jyotiraditya were “misled and deceived” by the BJP. Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Kantilal Bhuria, who also came to Jaipur with the MLAs, said there was no threat to the Government. “There is no threat to the Government. The state government has the majority,” he said, adding that the MLAs will be visiting tourist places in the city. “We will be staying here for three days. Our Government in Madhya Pradesh is stable. I am a tribal MLA and the Chief Minister has sympathy from tribals. People appreciate the government’s work,” he added. MLA Harsh Yadav said those who have gone with Scindia will be rejected by people.
“The Kamal Nath Government will continue. Those who are in touch with us, will come back,” Yadav said. Other MLAs like Mahesh Parmar and Shivdayal said they were confident about the Kamal Nath Government’s survival and accused the BJP of misleading the MLAs who have gone with Scindia. “The BJP has misled them,” another MLA said. Rajasthan Government’s chief whip Mahesh Joshi said there were nearly 90 MLAs from Madhya Pradesh and arrangements have been made for them at the two resorts on the Delhi highway. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot too went to the Buena Vista resort to hold discussions with the MLAs and party leaders.