A day ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on the issue of floor test in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, 16 Congress lawmakers told the media in Bengaluru that they were ill-treated and ignored in their own government.
Six ministers sacked from the Kamal Nath cabinet, also with these MLAs, criticised his government, alleging the chief minister limited himself to Chhindwara and did nothing for their constituencies. These MLAs sought CRPF protection ahead of returning to MP, saying if Jyotiraditya Scindia could be attacked, they have every reason to fear for themselves.
Back in MP, Nath's ministers rebutted these claims, asking the MLAs to return and speak freely.
Public Relations Minister PC Sharma produced videos of the sacked ministers, including Govind Singh Rajput, Imarti Devi and Tulsi Silawat in which they are seen heaping praise on Nath and questioned what transpired in the 10 days. Sharma claimed the ministers were coerced into saying these things and they would speak in the same tone once they are free and return home.
Meanwhile, Nath shot off another letter to Governor Lalji Tandon saying he has never violated constitutional limitations in his 40 years of parliamentary career. In a letter written to Tandon on Monday, Nath had accused him of ignoring his instructions of holding a floor test and instead presented baseless pleas and reasons.
In the latest letter, Nath expressed his regrets and having offended the Governor, demanding that the 16 MLAs holed up in a Bengaluru resort be set free.
“If no floor test is done on March 17, this notion seems unconstitutional,” Nath said. This followed a letter sent to Tandon by Assembly Speaker NP Prajapati who expressed concern over the safety of the missing MLAs and urged Tandon to ensure they are brought back. Prajapati claimed that the family members of several of these MLAs have expressed concern over their safety.
Earlier on Tuesday, Balram Chaudhary, brother of "missing" MLA Manoj Chaudhary, moved the Supreme Court.
Despite these 16 MLAs having sent their resignations through BJP leaders to Prajapti last week, the Speaker is yet to accept them, saying these lawmakers require to present themselves before him to clarify that they haven't been coerced into tendering their resignations.
Nath wants the issue to linger on as the acceptance of their resignations could push the state government into the minority. Sources claim he state government is hopeful that a few of these rebels could return to the party fold sooner or later.
The apex court on Tuesday did not hear the BJP's petition seeking a floor test, posting the matter for hearing on Wednesday. The plea, filed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan and others, says that the Nath government has lost its majority.
The Congress on Tuesday also approached the Supreme Court with a petition alleging that their 16 MLAs are held captive in Bengaluru and pleaded for their release.
Former state Home minister Bhupendra Singh, however, dismissed these allegations, claiming the Congress itself has held its MLAs captive in Bhopal. “Their MLAs (returned from Jaipur) have their houses in Bhopal but they are being confined in a hotel,” said Singh, claiming half of them would approach the BJP if they are set free.