BENGALURU: As a Dassault Falcon 2000LX aircraft, bearing the call sign VT-BVV, touched down at the HAL Airport on late Monday afternoon, a fresh political storm kicked off in far away Madhya Pradesh, pushing the Kamal Nath government again to the brink.
The aircraft was carrying a precious political cargo of Congress MLAs, all said to be loyal to party's rebel leader Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Soon after the MLAs landed after their two-and-a-half-hour journey in the chartered flight, they were whisked away to a resort on the outskirts in eastern parts of Bengaluru near Whitefield-Mahadevapura area.
Mahadevpura MLA and former minister Arvind Limbavalli and other BJP leaders have been tasked with managing the MLAs and taking care of the logistics of a fresh round of Operation Lotus targeting Kamal Nath, who has a wafer-thin majority in the assembly.
The MLAs who have reached Bengaluru, in staggered batches, are Pradumn Singh Tomar (minister), Imarti Devi (minister), Prabhuram Chowdhary (minister), Govind Singh Rajput (minister), Tulsi Silawat (minister), Mahendra Singh Sisodiya (minister), Pradumn Singh Tomar, Rajvardhan Singh Datigaon, OPS Badoria, Giriraj Dandotiya, Brijendra Yadav, Jaspal Jetty, Ranveer Jatav, Kamalesh Jatav, Jaswant Jatav, Munnalal Goyal and Suresh Rathkheda 'Dhakad'.
They join two other party MLAs, HS Dang and Raghuraj Kansana, who have been holed up in the city over the last week.
Congress sources told TNIE that for now, assembly opposition leader Siddaramaiah has been asked to not make any move but to keep a watch.
KPCC president Dinesh Gundurao too has been asked to assist Siddaramaiah in case they have to reach out to the rebel MLAs.
Sources said that the party does not want to rush in and muddle the situation putting further pressure on the Kamal Nath government. "First, attempts will be made to talk to Scindia. Only if those talks fail, moves will be made to reach out to MLAs individually," the source said.
Sources close to the Scindia faction said that the chartered flight cost about Rs 7.5 lakh. The aircraft was piloted by Capt Rahul Singh and Capt Amrik with the flight attendant Khusboo on board.
The fresh and more serious political crisis comes six days after the midnight political drama unfolded at a premier hotel in Gurugram.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath along with senior leaders and cabinet colleagues, including former CM Digvijaya Singh and Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha, went into a huddle at the Chief Minister's residence in Bhopal on Monday evening.
The six ministers and 11 MLAs, mostly from Gwalior-Chambal region (all Scindia loyalists) suddenly became untraceable on Monday with the cell phones of most of them switched off. One of the six ministers, the food and civil supplies minister Pradumn Singh Tomar and at least seven other MLAs, including Rajvardhan Singh Datigaon, Giriraj Dandotiya, Jaswant Jatav, Suresh Rathkheda 'Dhakad', Jajpal Singh, Brijendra Yadav and Raksha Santram Sironiya, besides health minister Tulsi Silawat's son Bankim Silawat and Jyotiraditya Scindia's close aide Purshottam Parashar flew by a chartered aircraft from Delhi to Bengaluru.
Besides them, the five other Scindia loyalist ministers and four to five more Congress MLAs are believed to be either in Delhi or in parts of Gwalior-Chambal region.
The dramatic developments on Monday happened under the shadow of two more Congress MLAs (who were allegedly flown to Bengaluru from Delhi by BJP leaders on March 3-4 intervening night) HS Dang and Raghuraj Kansana already being in Bengaluru, taking the total number of untraceable Congress MLAs to 20.
The developments on Monday have once again brought to the fore the internal differences between the faction-ridden Congress, particularly the Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh factions that have been simmering right since Kamal Nath was opted as the MP CM over Scindia in December 2018.
The developments have also brought to the fore the battle for who becomes the next state Congress chief as well as which two leaders are selected by Congress leadership for being sent to Rajya Sabha through the March 26 polls.
Three RS seats will be up for grabs from MP and Scindia supporters have been pressing for making Scindia as MPCC president and also sending him to Rajya Sabha.
Sources within the Congress in Bhopal confided to The New Indian Express that Scindia who has been keeping a close tab of dramatic political developments in MP could be flexing his muscles he and his loyalists know that this is the ideal time to get their long-standing concerns attended by the AICC leadership, which doesn't want to give BJP any opportunity to topple the Kamal Nath government.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who had flown to Delhi on Sunday night, returned to Bhopal on Monday evening after discussions with central Congress leaders, including AICC president Sonia Gandhi.
Before leaving for Bhopal, Nath had told journalists that he discussed an array of issues with the top party leadership in Delhi and there is complete unanimity about who will be sent to Rajya Sabha from MP.
"We'll hold meetings with party leaders in Bhopal in the evening and chalk out future strategy there only," said Nath.
All Congress MLAs (presently the party has 114 MLAs in the 230 member Vidhan Sabha) have been called to Bhopal on Tuesday morning, while a meeting of BJP MLAs is slated on Tuesday evening again in Bhopal. BJP has 107 MLAs in the State Assembly.
Meanwhile, as per informed sources in MP Congress, the possible pressure tactics by Scindia and loyalist ministers and MLAs could well have paid off, as a formula could have been thrashed out to send Scindia to Rajya Sabha (as first preference candidate) and his close confidant health minister Tulsi Silawat (a Dalit face) could succeed Kamal Nath as the new state Congress chief.
However, no official confirmation has been made about the formulae.