government has weathered its biggest challenge in 14 months in power. It staved off what CM Nath and his senior
attempt to topple the government by buying out ruling alliance MLAs.
Six of the 10 ‘missing’ MLAs were back in the Nath fold by Wednesday afternoon. But four are still ‘missing’ and reported to be cooped up in bungalows in Whitefield, Bengaluru. All other ruling alliance MLAs are accounted for, says Congress. “My government has already proven majority four times in floor tests and defeated BJP. They will be defeated again,” Nath said. With two seats vacant, the House strength is 228, putting the majority mark at 115.
Congress has 114 legislators. Even discounting the four missing MLAs, the Nath government is still comfortable with two BSP MLAs, an SP legislator and four independents. BJP, on the other hand, has 107 MLAs.
It was a close call. Madhya Pradesh hasn’t seen such political drama in at least two decades. Sixteen hours of firefighting. Chartered planes criss-crossing like they were shuttles. Scuffles, apparently, at a star hotel in Gurgaon. And political heavyweights from both sides are going toe to toe.
The political storm hit the MP government in the dead of night, around 1am on Wednesday, when reports surfaced of six, seven, eight (no one knew how many) Congress MLAs and allies cooped up at a hotel in Gurgaon. Congress alleged that the BJP was holding them there against their wish. Digvijaya turned up at the hotel but was allegedly not allowed to enter.
The Congress firefight was led by young Turks
and Jaivardhan Singh, Digvijaya’s son, who landed up at the hotel to “rescue their besieged colleagues.” With Digvijaya marshalling troops on the ground and Nath on the phone line from
, Congress launched a fierce counterattack.
Around 2 am, BSP MLA Rambai was the first to be brought out. In the next few hours, five more MLAs had stepped out. And around 10am, there were signs of relief on Congress faces back in Bhopal. Former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan flew back to Bhopal on a chartered plane at 10.30am. And BJP soon issued statements, saying they had nothing to do with the controversy and it was Congress’s internal matter.
At 4 pm, the six MLAs — Congress’s Adal Singh Kansana, Ranvir Jatav and
, BSP’s Ram Bai and Sanjeev Kushwah and SP’s Rajesh Shukla — alighted from a chartered plane in Bhopal and were driven to the CM’s residence under tight security.
Nath issued a statement, accusing BJP of trying to “destabilise the government in collaboration with mafia groups”. “BJP has been defeated every time it tried to destabilise this government,” the chief minister said. Digvijaya said, “The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh is secure and will complete its tenure of five years under chief minister Kamal Nath. We came to know of BJP’s activities and allurement after which we exposed them two days ago.”
Earlier in the day, CM Nath was scheduled to fly to New Delhi, but with the homecoming, he cancelled the trip. He sent finance minister Tarun Bhanot to bring back the MLAs.
Four MLAs, including an independent, remained untraced till late evening hours, though state Congress claimed they were all in touch with CM Nath and would be back soon. They include Congress’s Hardeep Singh Dang,
and Raghuraj Kansana, and independent MLA Surendra Singh Sher. Around 8:30am, Congress had claimed that these MLAs, including former minister Bisahulal Singh, were “bodily lifted and taken away by BJP”.
Standing in front of the hotel in the wee hours of Wednesday, Digvijaya had alleged that former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP chief whip Narottam Mishra and former BJP ministers Rampal Singh and Sanjay Pathak were “sitting inside the hotel with money”.
But Mishra denied any involvement in the drama or having flown to Bengaluru with the four MLAs. “There is disgruntlement in Congress and BJP is nowhere in the picture,” he said over telephone, adding that he is in Delhi. “Congress MLAs are unhappy. If any MLA comes to meet us, it does not mean we are luring them with money.” Asked where the missing Congress MLAs are, he said, “They are angry with their party’s government.”
Mishra claimed 15 to 20 Congress MLAs in touch with him. “What is so inappropriate if some Congress MLAs come to meet me? Let Congress prove that I offered money to their MLAs. Who is stopping Digvijaya Singh from giving proof?” he said.
Chouhan said, “The issue is within the Congress family and they are levelling accusations at us.” Asked why he went to Delhi, Chouhan said, “I am the national vice-president of BJP. When the party calls me to Delhi, I go there. Now I am going to Agar. We have to win elections.” Dismissing Digvijaya’s allegations, Chouhan said, “There are so many factions in Congress and the strife is within their party while they make allegations against us. The BJP is never involved in activities like this. But if anything occurs under the government’s own weight then what can we do?”
Newly-appointed state BJP president V D Sharma said, “This is Congress’ infighting. The BJP is not interested in such activities.”
Back in fold: Congress’s Adal Singh Kansana, Ranvir Jatav and Kamlesh Jatav, BSP’s Ram Bai and Sanjeev Kushwah and SP’s Rajesh Shukla
Missing: Congress’s Hardeep Singh Dang, Bisahulal Singh and Raghuraj Kansana, and independent MLA Surendra Singh Sher.