Disgruntled MLAs stage coup in Kamal Nath government

Madhya Pradesh government was caught off-guard on 10 March after 22 MLAs tendered their resignations to Raj Bhavan, soon after the decision of Jyotiraditya Scindia to cut ties with Congress, reports Tehelka Bureau

In a dramatic turn of events, the long-time member of the Congress and former union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia jumped ship to BJP, ending his eventful association with Congress. Scindia joined the BJP on 11 March and was welcomed by the party leadership with several top leaders lauding his decision. He was also nominated as the BJP Rajya Sabha candidate from Madhya Pradesh, as confirmed by the former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

The Kamal Nath-led government was caught off-guard on 10 March after 22 MLAs tendered their resignations to Raj Bhavan, soon after the decision of Jyotiraditya Scindia to cut ties with Congress. Scindia tendered his resignation after meeting Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday amid high drama over the fate of the 15-month long Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. He was expelled from the Congress party by Sonia Gandhi for ‘anti-party activities.’ The party was left red-faced after questions were raised over the credibility and loyalty of its members, who have time and again been found to switch sides with the rivals.

Officially, there are 114 MLAs which support the Congress, besides that there are four independents, two BSP and one Samajvadi party MLA, all supporting the Congress. But now, the 22 MLAs who have resigned and are now camped in a resort in Bengaluru, Karnataka, will apparently decide the fate of the future government in MP. Out of the 22, some MLAs say that although they support Scindia, they are not in favour of joining the BJP. Now the
question is how many of them will join follow Scindia and join BJP and how many will go back to Congress. In case all 22 MLAs resign or join the BJP, then the party will comfortably form the government in MP since they will be way above the halfway mark of 103 required to form the government. They currently have a strength of 107.

Congress has dispatched its new Karnataka Chief DK Shivakumar to get in touch with the 22 MLAs who are camped in his state. According to reports, Shivakumar has been able to talk to a few MLAs, however, it’s unclear whether any of them have been able to change their stance. The crisis-hit Kamal Nath government has taken urgent measures to set its house in order and prevent any more defections. Congress sent its remaining MLAs to a resort in Jaipur to guard flock on Tuesday and BJP too was seen ferrying its MLAs to safe locations on 11 March.

Shortly after announcing his association with the BJP, Jyotiraditya Scindia was offered the Madhya Pradesh Rajya Sabha seat by the party leadership. The list, released by the BJP on March 11, featured Scindia’s name among other nominations from across states. The Rajya Sabha elections are scheduled to be held on March 26. Scindia joined the BJP in presence of party chief JP Nadda and other party members at a press conference. He expressed his gratefulness to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Nadda for giving him a place in their family.

Scindia expressed his disappointment with the Congress party saying he was always sidelined and his viewpoint was never heard while in the party. He accused Congress party of reneging on its promises and enabling corruption under the Kamal Nath government. “I had a dream when Congress formed the government in Madhya Pradesh in 2018. Eighteen months later, none of the promises are met including the ones that of farmers,” Scindia said during his address on March 11.

Aunt applauds

His father Madhavrao Scindia was also associated with the Congress party, although his grandmother, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia of Gwalior, aunts Vasundhara Raje, and Yashodhara Raje have been part of the Jan Sangh and the BJP. Scindia is a grandson of Jivajirao Scindia, the last Maharaja of the princely state of Gwalior. Vasundhara Raje who was the chief minister of Rajasthan under BJP expressed her happiness with her nephew deciding to join the party.

“The family was divided into two as there were two different political parties. It’s natural that if you have political differences it seeps into the family too. This step has made all small issues of differences to go away. The arrival of my nephew will provide even more strength to PM Modi in politics at the centre. The Congress party has lost a strong pillar, of the future generation and today’s, and it has been added to our party,” Vasundhara Raje said on the decision of Scindia joining the BJP.

“Jyotiraditya has followed the high ideals of the legacy of Vijaya Raje Scindia and took the decision in the interest of the country. I welcome this decision personally and politically,” she added.

Former MP CM and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan congratulated Scindia on Twitter, welcoming him into the fold of the party. He also congratulated Scindia on being nominated as the Rajya Sabha nominee from the state.

Congress firefights in vain

On the other hand, the Congress is claiming that the government in Madhya Pradesh will win the floor test. The Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that 13 of the 22 rebel MLAs have assured that “they are not leaving Congress”. Rahul Gandhi shot back at the BJP accusing Modi of destabilising the government in Madhya Pradesh. The party hit at BJP accusing it of being in the business of poaching, “abducting MLAs”.

As reported by ANI, the Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the ‘opportunists’ like Scindia should have left the party much sooner. The public will ultimately teach him a lesson, ANI quoted Gehlot as saying. The party top brass expressed confidence that the government in Madhya Pradesh will come through the crisis and continue to maintain the majority in the house.

According to the Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, the government in the state is confident of winning the floor test. He said the government was not ‘sleeping,’ and was actively working to restore the order.’

Rahul Gandhi on being questioned whether he denied Scindia an appointment said that he was the only leader in the entire party who could meet him any time. “He is the only chap in Congress who could walk into my house anytime,” Rahul Gandhi was quoted as telling news agency ANI.

Rahul launched a scathing attack on BJP asking them to focus on the situation of the country rather than working clandestinely to ‘destablise’ rival governments in states. In one tweet he wrote, “Hey @PMOIndia, while you were busy destabilising an elected Congress Govt, you may have missed noticing the 35 per cent crash in global oil prices. Could you please pass on the benefit to Indians by slashing #petrol prices to under 60 per litre? Will help boost the stalled economy.”

The disquiet within

The cousin of Jyotiraditya Scindia and former Tripura royal Pradyot Manikya Debbarma also endorsed the view that Scindia was never allowed an appointment with the Gandhis despite trying multiple times. “I spoke to him late night and he told me that he waited and waited but there were no upcoming appointments given to him by ‘our’ leader,” Debbarma wrote in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, the rebel MLAs camping in Bengaluru seem disgruntled with Congress and according to the latest reports they seem unwilling to go back to the party. One of the rebel MLAs, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, said it was not Jyotiraditya Scindia who betrayed by the Congress but vice versa. In a video released on March 11, Sisodia said, “It is not Jyotiraditya Scindia who has betrayed. Instead, he has been betrayed by the Congress and Kamal Nath. Despite the fact that it was his hard work that enabled Congress to form the government in MP after 15 years, yet he was being sidelined. His people were sidelined.” He further claimed that whichever party Scindia joins, they will go with him. The rebel MLAs claim that Kamal Nath government did nothing to improve the situation of the state  after coming to power, saying it had initiated no action on the Vyapam scam which created shockwaves across the country.