BHOPAL: Amidst rumours of attempts at cross-poaching of legislators by both the Congress and the BJP, two saffron legislators — both ministers in the previous Shivraj Singh Chouhan government — claimed ‘threat to their life from the Congress government on Friday. The charge, coming hours after one of them was rumoured to have met Chief Minister Kamal Nath at Thursday midnight, ensured that the political drama, which started last Tuesday with Congress charging the BJP with ‘abduction’ of 10 legislators and keeping them in safe houses in Haryana and Karnataka, would not be ending soon.
The unfolding sequence of allegations and counters, the intrigue, thrust and parry, warnings and coaxings by both parties had all the ingredients of a Hollywood conspiracy potboiler. Midnight TV grabs on the intervening night of Thursday-Friday at around 1.30 am showed cars flitting in and out of the CM’s bungalow with silhouettes of occupants inside suggestive of BJP MLA’s Narayan Tripathi, Sharad Kol and Sanjay Pathak surreptitiously meeting Nath, who was having parleys with his senior ministers.
There were rumours also of ‘three BJP MLA’s’ resigning from the assembly to join the Congress and seek fresh election from their seats.
However, tongues wagged soon after, when PWD minister and Nath’s confidant Sajjan Singh Verma, who had attended Narayan Tripathi’s meeting with CM, came out at 1 pm of Thursday morning to boast, “We will claim three wickets against loss of one.” Tripathi did admit to meeting Nath on Thursday night. An ex-Congressman, he had joined Sharad Kol to vote with Congress MLAs in Assembly last year on a crucial Bill. However, he denied having resigned from the BJP. Insiders, however, admitted that consternation had reigned in the Congress circles after senior BJP leader Narottam Mishra openly suggested earlier on Thursday that over 15 Congress legislators were in touch with the saffron party.
The threat had led to the parleys between top Cabinet ministers, even as three Congress MLAs and an allied independent were still holding out in Bengaluru, where they had allegedly been taken to by the BJP. They said there also have been inputs about some state BJP leaders trying to topple the government with the help of Congress and allied MLAs from Malwa-Nimar and Gwalior-Chambal regions. Funding for it was to be allegedly done by big businessmen of Indore, Gwalior and Bhopal. A Maharashtra ashram having influence in Malwa-Nimar region, too, is believed to be in league with those engaged in the operation.
“Among the businessmen are people who run marriage gardens, hospitals in Bhopal, or are into sand mining. The plan was to route the money through a hawala trader of Jhansi in UP,” said a source.Sanjay Pathak and Vishwas Sarang of the BJP, who were said to have met the chief minister on Thursday night and who alleged a threat to their lives on Friday, had earlier been charged by Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh as being in the core BJP group which planned the ‘abductions’ of ruling party and allied MLAs. Sarang also denied that he was leaving BJP. “The media grabs show a person with longer sideburns. Is my sideburn long? Is my car number the same as that of the car which came out?” he asked.
Both alleged that their security personnel had been removed and that Pathak’s car was tailed by policemen in civvies when he returned to Bhopal early Thursday evening. “They closed my mines too and now they want me to resign from the BJP and re-join Congress,” Pathak, an ex-Congressman, said, even as he denied meeting the CM.Sarang said he was afraid of accepting a new security man. “He will be a spy; he can even lynch me. I could be murdered,” he said, adding, “They have their own internal problems, but would like to use us as sacrificial lambs.”
Sajjan Singh Verma indicated that there would be no let-up in Congress counter and it would ‘avenge the loss’ of MLA HS Dang who resigned under BJP pressure on Thursday. Dang is among the three Congress MLAs who remained untraceable after being flown by BJP leaders to Bengaluru on Wednesday night. The three MLAs — Dang, Bisahu Lal Singh and Raghuraj Kansana — were untraceable till Friday, though the Congress claimed they had established telephonic contact with CM Nath. The cloak and dagger game, however, has forced a re-think within the Congress and top sources hinted at the possibility of a Cabinet expansion sooner to assuage the feelings of dissidents. Scindia loyalist and labour minister Mahendra Sisodia ruled out any threat to the government but added grist to the mill. “There is no threat to the government as of now,” Sisodia said, adding significantly, “There could be, however, if Jyotiradityaji is ignored.”
Missing MLA resurfaces in Bengaluru
In a significant late night development that could be a signal of the ongoing political drama coming to an end in MP, one of the four missing MLAs Surendra Singh ‘Shera Bhaiya’ announced that he was still supporting the Kamal Nath government. Singh, the independent MLA from Burhanpur assembly constituency, was seen in a video saying. Meanwhile,the Karnataka twist to the MP crisis seems to be deepening with some more legislators from that state believed to have been flown in from Bhopal to Bengaluru in a bid to destabilise the Nath government. This comes just days ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha elections scheduled on March 26. According to unconfirmed sources, 10 MLAs from MP are lodged at an undisclosed location in Bengaluru.