Bhopal: A jubilant BJP in Madhya Pradesh ignored the coronavirus pandemic as supporters and party workers flocked to the state headquarters in Bhopal after senior Congress leader Kamal Nath resigned as chief minister Friday.
On the verge of a floor test, the Congress accepted the resignations of 16 rebel MLAs Friday and Nath quit, paving the way for the BJP’s return to office in the state after a days-long drama marked by defections and the now-infamous brand of resort politics.
BJP supporters burst firecrackers, played dhol, and distributed sweets as former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, state BJP president V.D. Sharma and Madhya Pradesh leader of the opposition Gopal Bhargava reached the state BJP office from the assembly.
The leaders subsequently garlanded the busts of party ideologues Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, Kushabhau Thakre and Vijayaraje Scindia.
A short meeting ensued between the three leaders, Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
However, a dinner planned by Chouhan for party leaders and MLAs was cancelled over concerns surrounding coronavirus transmission.
“I appeal to all the people of the state that they should follow PM Modi’s advice and remain indoors from 7 am to 9 pm (on Sunday),” Chouhan told reporters late Friday afternoon in reference to Modi’s call for a Janata Curfew.
“It is important to remain safe by taking such measures. The PM has appealed that we should stay indoors and not hold any programmes that would result in a large gathering. Hence, I have decided to cancel the dinner,” he said.
‘Shivraj Singh Chouhan likely to lead govt’
Sources in the BJP said a legislature party meeting was likely Saturday for the selection of a leader.
“In all likelihood, it will be Shivraj Singh Chouhan as he is the most acceptable face and the party will have to contest 24 seats under him (those of 22 Congress rebels plus two whose incumbents passed away),” said a senior party leader. “But it is the central leadership that takes a call and it is known for surprises.”
Senior BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra, who is also said to be a frontrunner to lead the BJP’s government in the state, said the decision lay with the central leadership.
Once the BJP elects a party leader, it will then stake claim to form the government. However, it will also have to prove its majority.
According to sources, ahead of government formation, Independent MLAs have also extended their support to the BJP.
The outgoing Congress government had been on a shaky footing since 22 of its MLAs, including six ministers, resigned earlier this month. Most of the rebel MLAs were known to be loyalists of Jyotiraditya Scindia and resigned soon after the former MP quit the Congress on 10 March.
While the resignations of the ministers were accepted over the weekend, those of the remaining 16 were cleared Friday.
The MP assembly has 230 seats, but two fell vacant following the death of the incumbent MLAs. Before the state plunged into a political crisis, the Congress had 114 MLAs (along with the support of three BSP and SP MLAs and four independents) and the BJP 107.
After the acceptance of all the 22 resignations, the strength of the assembly was reduced to 206.
It is, however, still not clear whether this resignation will be considered accepted or not. Either way, the BJP has the numbers to form a government.
‘We had no role in Congress downfall’
According to a second senior BJP leader, a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board will also be held in Delhi, either later Friday or Saturday, to decide the way ahead in Madhya Pradesh.
Senior leaders of the BJP, led by Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Madhya Pradesh MP Dharmendra Pradhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Guna MP, also met in Delhi earlier on Friday to chalk out the future course of action.
A third BJP source suggested at least eight of the rebel MLAs were likely to get ministerial berths in the state.
“At least 8 MLAs from the 22 who resigned will be made part of the government. This was decided upon much before. The BJP will field them from the same seats,” the leader said. “We are waiting for the Election Commission to issue a notification in this regard.”
Soon after Kamal Nath’s resignation, all the BJP MLAs lodged at a resort in Sehore, led by Chouhan, reached the assembly in a bus for the floor test ordered by the Supreme Court on a BJP petition. The test, however, was called off as Nath resigned.
“We had no role to play in the Congress’ downfall,” Chouhan told reporters at the assembly after Nath’s resignation early afternoon. “The government fell on its own.”
He also said the Congress needed to introspect why so many MLAs decided to quit the party.