Bhopal/Bengaluru: Putting the ball in the court of the 22 rebel Congress MLAs in Madhya Pradesh, the Assembly Speaker has asked them to appear before him by Friday and clarify whether their resignations that pushed the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government to the brink of collapse was voluntary or under pressure.
The move by Speaker N P Prajapati came amid high drama when a MP minister Jitu Patwari was allegedly detained and stopped by the police from entering a resort near Bengaluru in BJP-ruled Karnataka where 19 of the 22 MLAs were believed to be holed up. The 22 MLAs who were issued notices are stated to be supporters of Jyotiraditya Scindia. Scindia quit Congress and joined the BJP on Wednesday.
Police sources said the minister was briefly detained along with his supporters as he tried to enter the resort.
A video purportedly showing the minister picking up heated arguments with the police has also gone viral.
According to sources, Patwari had come with an apparent intention to convince the rebel MLAs who included six ministers to return to the party fold.
The Congress, however, alleged two ministers from MP were arrested by police in Bengaluru.
Talking to reporters at the state Congress office in Bhopal, party MP Vivek Tankha said the two ministers, Jitu Patwari and Lakhan Singh, had gone to Bengaluru along with the father of party MLA Manoj Choudhary, who he claimed, had been held "captive" by the BJP at the resort.
Both the Congress ministers were also assaulted by policemen in Bengaluru, alleged Tankha, who is also a senior Supreme Court lawyer.
As the fate of the Congress government hung in balance, the BJP said it will seek a floor test in the Assembly on March 16 to test the majority of the ruling party.
The Congress, however, said it will face the floor test only after the Speaker decides on the resignations of the 22 MLAs.
The Speaker has asked the 22 rebels to appear before him by Friday to clarify whether they have resigned voluntarily or under any pressure, said Vidhan Sabha principal secretary A P Singh.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh wondered why the rebel MLAs were not meeting the Speaker to submit their resignations.
BJP's chief whip in the Assembly Narottam Mishra said since the government has been reduced to a minority the opposition party is going to request the Governor and the Speaker for a floor test on March 16 when the state budget session begins.
"This government has lost majority," said senior BJP leader and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
When asked about the BJP's demand, Digvijaya Singh said the chief minister is ready for a floor test.
"As Kamal Nathji has already said we are ready for the floor test. But, there should be a decision on the resignation of MLAs before the floor test," Singh said, while blaming the BJP for the constitutional crisis in the state.
"The resignations will be accepted when the MLAs meet the Speaker one-on-one and verify their signatures without any pressure. Then the resignations will be accepted and the floor test can be conducted," he said.
Singh said the rebel MLAs should now go to the Speaker and clear the air.
"Nineteen Congress MLAs are in their (BJP's) captivity. The family members (of MLAs) are unable to talk to them. Their phones were taken away," Singh alleged, adding it is also strange that the resignations of the Congress MLAs were submitted to the Speaker by BJP leader Bhupendra Singh.
The BJP claimed this is an "internal matter" of the Congress, but at the same time leaders of the saffron party submitted the resignations of the ruling party (Congress) MLAs to the speaker, Singh pointed out.
On Tuesday, 22 Congress MLAs resigned in a coordinated revolt soon after Scindia quit the party. Three of them are still in Madhya Pradesh, sources said.
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 with the magic number for a majority being 104.