Thirteen of 22 rebel Congress MLAs don't want to quit, says Digvijaya

File photo of Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi | PTI photo

Thirteen of the 22 rebel Congress MLAs in Madhya Pradesh don't want to quit the party and were led away only to create pressure on the leadership to nominate Jyotiraditya Scindia to the Rajya Sabha, senior party leader Digvijaya Singh claimed on Thursday.

He also asserted that the Kamal Nath-led government in the state, pushed to the brink of collapse with the resignation of 22 MLAs, will win a floor test.

On a day that Scindia joined the BJP, Singh said the former Union minister and four-time Lok Sabha MP from the Congress was offered the post of Madhya Pradesh deputy chief minister in 2018 when the party won the state elections but wanted his nominee appointed.

However, this was rejected by Kamal Nath as he didn't want a "chela" in that position, Singh told PTI in an interview, a day after Scindia quit the Congress and 22 MLAs submitted their resignations from the assembly.

"The CM said he does not have any issue with Scindia becoming the deputy CM but told him, 'if you want your 'chela' to become deputy CM, then that will not happen'. Kamal Nath then took six of his (Scindia's) supporters in the cabinet," Singh revealed.

Two-three ministers close to Scindia as well as 10 of the rebel MLAs have given an assurance they are not leaving the Congress, he said.

"They were taken to Bengaluru to put pressure on the Congress to give Scindia a Rajya Sabha berth," Singh said.

"All the 22 MLAs, but for five or six, are Congress members who have been in Mr Scindia's group since Mr. Madhavrao Scindia's time. So, all those people were there with him because they were with the Congress party," he added.

Singh said the party is in touch with the families of the MLAs.

"We are not keeping quiet. We are not sleeping," he declared.

Alleging the BJP's hand behind the crisis, he said the party's leaders carried the resignations of the Congress MLAs. Also, the BJP chartered flights to ferry Congress MLAs in two batches to Bengaluru, he claimed.

"It is all engineered, sponsored and paid for by the BJP... all part of the BJP's Operation Moneybag," he said and added that the phones of the rebel MLAs have been taken away and their conversations with family members are being recorded.

Singh admitted that the party did not anticipate that Scindia would leave the Congress to join the BJP and described the move as his "ati-mahatvakansha", or his over-ambition.

"We did not anticipate that Scindia will quit the Congress... that was a mistake. Someone who has got so much from the party - four-time MP, twice minister in Union Cabinet, Congress Working Committee member and party general secretary," he said.

"The Congress could have easily sent him to the Rajya Sabha with 122 MLAs on its side. But we could not have made him a cabinet minister. Only Modi-Shah can make (him) a cabinet minister not us," he added.

The remark was an oblique reference to reports that Scindia will be made a cabinet minister in the Modi government in return for his MLAs supporting BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan to form government in Madhya Pradesh.

"We will prove our majority. We will save the government," Singh said.

He also rejected theories of Scindia being unhappy with the party and the state government.

"In the entire Gwalior-Chambal region, the Congress is being run by Scindia. And even Kamal Nath ji ran the administrative machinery in coordination with him. Guna is my home district but even the SP and collector are appointed as per his (Scindia's) wishes. It's the same in Shivpuri, Gwalior, Ashok Nagar, Bhind and Morena."

The two-time Madhya Pradesh chief minister said the assembly speaker, as per law, wants to verify the authenticity of the resignations tendered by the rebel MLAs by seeking their personal presence.

Detailing the sequence of events relating to the crisis in the state, he claimed Scindia was "upset and frustrated" when he lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and made overtures to Modi-Shah stating he could topple the Kamal Nath government.

"During the time, through a friend, he met Modi ji and Amit Shah," Singh said.

State BJP leaders were, however, opposed to the idea and were confident they could do the job themselves, he claimed, adding that Scindia was roped in when the local BJP leadership failed.

"Senior BJP leaders said if the government has to be brought down, we can do it, why do you have to take him (in the party). So they were asked to make an attempt. They tried...but we thwarted it.

"Then Amit Shah took them to task and said 'you are all useless ('nikamme nikle'), I am giving the task to (bring down the government) to Scindia ji'," Singh claimed.

On his personal equation with Scindia, he said he had always remained in touch with Scindia and his father, the late Madhavrao Scindia.

Singh also recalled that he was instrumental in bringing Madhavrao Scindia to the Congress in 1979. Madhavrao Scindia's mother Vijaya Raje Scindia was one of the founding members of the BJP.

The Congress has a wafer thin majority in the 228-member assembly. Before the rebellion, its tally was 114. It also has the support of four Independents, two BSP MLAs and one from the SP, but some may now switch sides to the BJP.

If the resignations of the 22 MLAs are accepted, the strength of the assembly will fall to 206. The Congress, on its own, will then be left with 92 seats while the BJP has 107 seats with the magic number for a majority being 104.

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