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Exclusives - 09 March, 2020

Kamal Nath government in crisis as Scindia with 18 loyal MLAs revolts

Political crisis in Madhya Pradesh deepened as 18 Congress MLAs, including six ministers, believed to be close to senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, have left for Bengaluru in a chartered flight allegedly arranged... #MPgovernmentincrisis#

Samuel Mathai

Bhopal: Political crisis in Madhya Pradesh deepened as 18 Congress MLAs, including six ministers, believed to be close to senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, have left for Bengaluru in a chartered flight allegedly arranged by the BJP, days after eight MLAs who had gone missing amid horse-trading allegations returned to the state. However, Scindia has not been responding to fellow party leaders.

According to sources, the 18 Congress MLAs, including six ministers, are currently in Bengaluru and their phones are switched off. The ministers whose mobile phones are switched off included health minister Tulsi Silavat, labour minister Mahendra Singh Sisodia, transport minister Govind Singh Rajput, women and child development minister Imarti Devi, food and civil supplies minister Pradyumna Singh Tomar and school education minister Dr Prabhura Choudhary.

"After holding a meeting for nearly two hours, chief minister Kamal Nath decided to summon a meeting of the state Cabinet around 10 pm. Nath is expected to make some major announcement at the meeting," the sources said.

Senior Congress leader Ajay Singh, a possible contender for Rajya Sabha seat in MP, reached CM Kamal Nath's house in Bhopal. Nath had called the state Congress leaders including former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha to his residence for a meeting.​ He had cut short his Delhi visit and returned to Bhopal.

The turf war between Nath and Scindia is no secret in the state, with the two having locked horns in public last month. The Guna royal had threatened to take to the streets if his party's government in the state failed to meet the demands of protesting guest teachers, and the CM virtually dared him to follow through. Scindia and Nath had fallen out over the post of the state Congress president, which is currently held by the chief minister.

Monday’s development came against the backdrop of the ruling party accusing the BJP of trying to poach its MLAs to topple the Kamal Nath government, which enjoys a wafer thin majority in the Assembly, and imminent expansion of the state Cabinet. Nath met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi earlier in the day and discussed cabinet expansion as well as the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.

Amid those lobbying for a berth in the expanded cabinet is party MLA Bisahu Lal Singh, who was the eighth MLA who returned from Bengaluru after being ‘missing’ for six days. A total of 10 MLAs had gone incommunicado of whom two — Raghuraj Singh Kansana and Hardeep Singh Dang — are yet to be traced.

The widening rift comes at a time when the party is prepping for the Rajya Sabha polls scheduled on March 26. The Rajya Sabha terms of Congress veteran Digvijay Singh, and BJP leaders Prabhat Jha and Satyanarayan Jatiya will end on April 9.

As per the arithmetic in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the two parties are sure to win one Rajya Sabha seat each, but a tussle is likely for the third seat. While the Congress has 114 MLAs, the opposition BJP has 107 legislators.

Four Independent MLAs, two lawmakers of the Bahujan Samaj Party and one legislator of the Samajwadi Party are supporting the Congress-led state government. Two seats are vacant following the demise of a Congress and a BJP legislator.

Meanwhile, sources said Union home minister Amit Shah held a meeting with former Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar. The Madhya Pradesh BJP has called a meeting of its 107 MLAs on Tuesday ahead of the March 16 budget session of the state Assembly and the Rajya Sabha polls for three seats scheduled on March 26.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan has briefed BJP National President JP Nadda of the situation. He is also likely to be elected as leader of BJP's legislative party. BJP sources say that if a chance to form the government in state presents itself, Shivraj Singh Chauhan will be made Chief Minister again.

Chauhan has been apprised of the situation in the state, along with top party leadership. He will be rushed to Bhopal Tuesday morning.

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