March 11, 2020
Bhopal: Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose exit has left the Congress on the verge of losing power in Madhya Pradesh, is likely to join the BJP today, sources have told NDTV. For his crossover along with 21 Congress MLAs crucial to the survival of the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh, he is likely to be rewarded with a Rajya Sabha nomination and eventually, a spot in the central cabinet. The Madhya Pradesh government has a wafer-thin majority of just four above the majority mark of 116. If the resignations are accepted, the Congress will lose power. The BJP and the Congress have moved their MLAs out of Madhya Pradesh for safe-keeping. The BJP has put up its MLAs at the five-star ITC Grand Bharat in Gurgaon, while the Congress has reportedly taken its members to Jaipur in Rajasthan, where the party is in power.
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Shortly after Mr Scindia’s exit from the Congress, 21 party MLAs sent letters of resignation to the Madhya Pradesh Governor. Earlier, sources said 25 MLAs were ready to resign. Should these resignations be accepted, the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government will be reduced to a minority.
Kamal Nath has said he is confident his government will complete its term. “There is nothing to worry about. We will prove our majority,” he said late on Tuesday night.
In Bengaluru, where the first group of 17 Congress MLAs were flown in a chartered plane on Monday, the party’s troubleshooter in Karnataka, DK Shivakumar, claimed he was in touch with the rebel MLAs and they would come back to the party. “This may not even be a long drawn affair… they may return soon,” Mr Shivakumar told NDTV.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has denied that Jyotiraditya Scindia’s move to join the rival BJP, a party he had sharply criticized over the recent violence in Delhi and also when the BJP engineered a coup in Karnataka last year, was driven by his perceived diminished standing in the Congress. “No question… he was not at all sidelined… Sad. But I wish him well under Modi-Shah Tutelage,” the former Chief Minister tweeted this morning.
Mr Scindia, 49, had reportedly been unhappy with Congress leadership for some time. Once close to the Gandhi family, he lost the race for chief ministership in 2018 after he showed support of only 23 MLAs despite making a sizeable contribution to the Congress’ unexpected Assembly polls win. In August, he was one of a few opposition leaders who supported the centre’s Article 370 move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
In dramatic developments on Holi morning, Mr Scindia went with Amit Shah to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Shortly after, he tweeted a letter of resignation, dated March 9, to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, speaking of a “fresh start” and saying: “…this is a path that has been drawing itself out over the last year”.
Minutes later the Congress declared the former Guna MP expelled from the party “with immediate effect” for “anti-party activities”. Supporters of Mr Scindia say the Gandhis did not make any attempt to reach out to him.
Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ripped into Mr Scindia, saying he had betrayed the “trust of the people and the ideology” and was a leader with “self-indulgent political ambitions”. But many in the party also indicated that his exit was symptomatic of a huge leadership crisis and lack of direction in the Congress.
Mr Scindia’s political crossover came to pass on the birth anniversary of his father Madhavrao Scindia, a senior Congress leader who died in 2001. His grandmother Vijayraje Scindia was a BJP icon and his aunts Vasundhara Raje and Yashodhara Raje are also in the party. Yashodhara Raje, a BJP MLA, welcomed his “ghar waapsi (homecoming)”.
Digvijaya Singh, who led a “rescue” operation last week after 10 MLAs were allegedly held hostage by the BJP at a resort near Delhi, hit out at a “conspiracy” to unseat the government. Mr Singh, who had alleged MLAs had been offered Rs 35 crore, also accused BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of lying. In response, Mr Chouhan criticised the Congress over “double standards”, saying: “For some Congress leaders when Scindia was in Congress he was a maharaja, now he is a mafia?” He was referring to a comment by Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in which he accused “mafia” of destabilising his government.