- Jyotiraditya Scindia met PM, Amit Shah after resigning from Congress
- Later, 20 Congress MLAs sent their resignation to the Raj Bhavan
- Mr Scindia was reportedly unhappy with the Congress leadership
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In dramatic developments on Holi morning, Jyotiraditya Scindia met PM Modi and Amit Shah. Shortly after, he posted a letter of resignation on his Twitter account. In the letter, dated March 9 and addressed to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Mr Scindia said: "...this is a path that has been drawing itself out over the last year". He wrote: "My aim and purpose remain the same... to serve the people of my state and country, I believe am unable to do this anymore within this party".
Minutes later the Congress hit back by expelling the 49-year-old former Guna MP from the party. In a terse statement from General Secretary KC Venugopal, the Congress said Mr Scindia was expelled "with immediate effect" for "anti-party activities". Supporters of Mr Scindia say the Gandhis did not make any attempts to reach out to him.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, who would only say "Happy Holi" to reporters asking for comments, is expected to join the BJP later this week. In the evening, Madhya Pradesh BJP MLAs met at a Bhopal hotel. Amid the Congress claims, the BJP started shifting its MLAs out of Bhopal. Late in the evening, five buses filled with legislators, made their way to the Bhopal airport to fly to Delhi. They were then taken to a five-star hotel in Gurgaon.
Meanwhile, the BJP's Central Election Committee (CEC), including PM Modi, Mr Shah, party chief JP Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, met at the party headquarters in Delhi to decide the candidates for the March 26 Rajya Sabha elections. After the CEC meeting, PM Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda held another meeting, during which the ongoing political situation may have been discussed, news agency ANI reported.
Mr Scindia had reportedly been unhappy with Congress leadership for quite some time. Once close to the Gandhi family, he had been passed over for chief ministership in 2018 after he showed support of only 23 MLAs, despite making a sizeable contribution to the Congress' unexpected Assembly polls win. In August, he was one of a few opposition leaders who supported the centre over its Article 370 move.
As the drama unfolded on Tuesday, senior Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ripped into Mr Scindia, saying he had betrayed the "trust of the people and the ideology" and was a leader with "self-indulgent political ambitions". However, Mr Scindia was backed by his aunt and Madhya Pradesh BJP MLA Yashodhara Raje, who welcomed his "ghar waapsi (homecoming)".
Veteran Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who led a "rescue" operation last week after 10 MLAs were allegedly held hostage by the BJP at a resort near Delhi, hit out at a "conspiracy" to unseat the government. Mr Singh, who had alleged MLAs had been offered Rs 35 crore, also accused BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of lying.
In response, Mr Chouhan criticised the Congress over "double standards", saying: "For some Congress leaders when Scindia was in Congress he was a maharaja, now he is a mafia?" He was referring to a comment by Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in which he accused "mafia" of destabilising his government. Mr Chouhan also termed developments as "internal matter". Fellow BJP leader Narottam Mishra, whom sources told NDTV last week was linked to destabilisation attempts, said the resignations indicated there was "something wrong in the Congress".
Congress MLA Bisahu Lal, one of those who resigned on Tuesday, later joined the BJP in the presence of Mr Chouhan. Addressing reporters Mr Lal claimed there were several other Congress leaders waiting to join the BJP.
As of Tuesday morning Chief Minister Kamal Nath's government had 120 MLAs - just four over the majority mark of 116 in the 230-member Assembly. If the resignation of the 21 MLAs is accepted, the majority mark will be 104; the BJP will have 107 and the Congress 100, including support from the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and independents.
With input from ANI