With a fresh crisis brewing in Madhya Pradesh, 20 state cabinet ministers present in the meeting with Chief Minister Kamal Nath tendered their resignations.
An emergency cabinet meeting which was attended by 20 ministers was convened on Monday night.
“Twenty ministers who attended the cabinet meeting have submitted their resignations to the CM Kamal Nath and requested him to reconstitute his ministerial team in a fresh manner. There is no threat to the government and everyone, including Jyotiraditya Scindia, is with Congress,” CM Kamal Nath’s loyalist and state PWD minister Sajjan Singh Verma told journalists after the meeting.
Nath alleged that the BJP was adopting immoral ways to "destabilise my government" and vowed not to let it happen.
After the dramatic developments, MP Forest Minister Umang Singhar told PTI, "We have resigned. Now it is up to the chief minister to take a call."
The minister said they have requested the chief minister to reconstitute the cabinet, in an apparent move to quell dissent in the party by accommodating some of the rebel MLAs in the council of ministers.
This comes after Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and at least 17 MLAs who are believed to be supporting him suddenly became 'incommunicado' on Monday ahead of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.
Kamal Nath is now expected to redistribute cabinet portfolios in a last-ditch attempt to win back the rebel MLAs.
According to reports, all the 17 Congress MLAs, including five ministers, are currently in Bengaluru and their phones are switched off.
Many of these legislators, including ministers, had flown to the Karnataka Monday morning.
Scindia, however, kept his cards close to his chest and there was no word from him on the developments.
Trouble has been brewing in the Congress ahead of Rajya Sabha polls as it had last week accused the BJP of trying to topple its government after 10 MLAs of the ruling party and those of its allies travelled to Haryana, though the BJP had denied the charge.
Of them, eight had come back and many of them wanted ministerial berths, according to sources.
However, two Congress MLAs have not yet returned.
Scindia and Nath have fallen out over the post of the state Congress president, which is currently held by the chief minister.
BJP leader Narottam Mishra on 'a group of Madhya Pradesh Congress MLAs lodged in Bengaluru': Dushmano ke teer kha kar doston ke shahar mein, unko kis-kis ne mara ye kahani phir kabhi. pic.twitter.com/SkE0Z6l9jb— ANI (@ANI) March 10, 2020
Sources said several legislators, including a few ministers, arrived in Bengaluru by chartered flights and were staying at an undisclosed location.
"It is a fight for the survival of Scindia now. It is a do or die battle for Scindia and his group which is being sidelined," a source close to the scion of erstwhile Gwalior kingdom said.
The development came against the backdrop of the ruling party accusing the BJP of trying to poach its MLAs to topple the Kamal Nath-led government, which enjoys a wafer-thin majority in the House, and imminent expansion of the state Cabinet.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath who was in Delhi earlier in the day has returned to Bhopal after cutting short his visit, sources said.
The 'rebel' 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.
Even as the government appeared to be on a sticky wicket, Public Relations Minister PC Sharma claimed, "It will last its full five-year term and there was no political crisis."
"Just now we have handed over our resignations to the chief minister at the cabinet meeting," another minister Sajjan Singh Verma told reporters, adding that it was to express their solidarity with Nath.
Earlier Nath told the cabinet meeting, "I will not allow (anyone) to destabilise my government with the help of mafia."
"I have dedicated all my life to serving the people, but the BJP has indulged in immoral ways to destabilise my government. My biggest strength is people's faith and their love showered on me. I will not allow anyone to destabilise the government elected by the people," he said.
While factionalism has reared its head again in the Congress, the BJP too was having some anxious moments due to a couple of MLAs.
The Rajya Sabha terms of Congress veteran Digvijay Singh, and BJP leaders Prabhat Jha and Satyanarayan Jatiya will end on April 9.
A senior state Congress leader (on conditions of anonymity) told The New Indian Express that the cabinet reshuffle was expected after the Vidhan Sabha budget session next month, but keeping in mind the ongoing crisis, the CM might rejig his cabinet in a few days.
In a related development, all 114 Congress MLAs have been summoned by state Congress leadership to Bhopal on Tuesday morning. Similarly, the BJP legislature party too would meet in Bhopal on Tuesday evening.
Sources in Delhi said former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan may be elected as the leader of the BJP legislature party in the meeting on Tuesday.
Chouhan, they added, has briefed the top party brass, including its president J P Nadda, about the developments in the state.
The party had sent a list of 20 to 22 names, including that of national general secretaries Ram Madhav and Kailash Vijayvargiya, to its central poll panel to pick two candidates for the RS polls.
Members of a state's Legislative Assembly vote in the Rajya Sabha elections.
(With ENS and PTI inputs)