MP govt in crisis as 17 MLAs loyal to Scindia fly to Bengaluru

Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh appeared to be teetering on the verge of collapse on Monday as senior Congress functionary
Jyotiraditya Scindia and as many as 17 MLAs, including six ministers, went incommunicado with speculation that Scindia was in touch with BJP.

All ministers of the Kamal Nath cabinet resigned following a lengthy meeting at the CM’s house on Monday night.

With the rebel legislators reaching Bengaluru, where they are holed up in a resort, and Congress unable to reach Scindia, sources in the party said he could be considering a deal with BJP. It was felt that Scindia could be inducted into the central council of ministers and this would come with a Rajya Sabha seat.

The full blown rebellion caught the chief minister and Congress leadership off-guard, indicating the push and pull over Rajya Sabha nominations that had recently seen some MLAs reach Gurgaon and Bengaluru was far from over and is now taking on a much more serious dimension.

The chief minister, who was in Delhi for consultations with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, rushed back to Bhopal. He held discussions with senior ministers and party functionaries but neither the central nor state party members were able to contact Scindia, who was seen at his residence in Delhi on Monday evening.

While the Congress camp might be willing to concede Scindia’s demands — reportedly for state chief and Rajya Sabha nomination— there is surging speculation that he is looking at BJP which has called a meeting of its legislators on Tuesday morning despite Holi. Former chief minister Shivraj Chauhan met home minister Amit Shah, party chief J P Nadda and senior members in Delhi. There were reports that Nath could recommend dissolution of the assembly if the crisis was not resolved, even though the decision to do so is with Governor Lalji Tandon and can open doors for BJP.

Scindia was the centre of attention as the factional feud in Madhya Pradesh Congress spun out of control. There was discussion in political circles that the discontented Congress leader may meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah. Earlier in the day, when Nath met Sonia Gandhi, there was talk that Scindia might meet her too.

The developments underline that power equations were never settled after Nath was made CM 15 months ago, overlooking Scindia’s claims. Since then it has been an uneasy peace, with Scindia often criticising the functioning of the state government and making it evident that he expects to be considered for the state unit chief and, more recently, for a Rajya Sabha berth.

The RS elections due later this month provided the trigger for the current upheaval. Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh is expected to be nominated, while the second, which is a shade less certain, was being speculated upon. The calls for Priyanka Gandhi to be fielded, felt the Scindia camp, were moves to exclude the former central minister from the fray.

Congress has a 7-member advantage over BJP for the second seat but a few wavering members can pose a serious risk. Given this reality, Congress is beset with an in-house fight for who would be allocated the first 58 MLAs and BJP’s move to wrest the second seat set off the crisis. Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi, however, said there is no threat to the government.

With the missing MLAs seen close to Scindia, the development can destabilise the state government at a time when Congress had begun to hope that the storm had passed. Delays in resolving the power struggle only made the situation more volatile and unless Scindia’s demands are swiftly met, the possibility of a dramatic change of government cannot be ruled out.

Congress, completely blindsided by Scindia googly, got to know of it only when the group had landed in Bengaluru. Sources in the state Congress claimed an “internal crisis” rather than BJP, which has called a meeting of its legislators on Tuesday, was responsible for the developments.

Scindia, who is an AICC general secretary, is known for his proximity to Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. But he was understood to be less than pleased when he was given charge of “western UP” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls when Priyanka, who formally entered politics, was made responsible for “eastern UP”. He is understood to have told confidants that he does not understand the decision, as he might have been more familiar with Rajasthan, Gujarat or Maharashtra.

The bump comes barely days after a few MLAs decamped Bhopal and had to be wooed back from Gurgaon and Bengaluru. While Congress called it a poaching attempt by rival BJP, there were claims that it was result of infighting in view of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.

At the time when Nath was made CM, the then AICC chief Rahul Gandhi had tweeted a photograph of him flanked by Scindia on one side and Kamal Nath on the other, with the message: “Patience and Time”.

A few days ago, Scindia loyalist Mahendra Singh Sisodia issued a clear warning: “The Kamal Nath government is stable and will not be toppled. But the day our leader Jyotiraditya Scindia is neglected, that day this government will be in a crisis.”

The missing MLAs include health minister Tulsi Silawat, women and child minister Imarti Devi, revenue minister Govind Singh Rajput, and minister for labour Sisodia.

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