By Shubhomoy Chatterjee
New Delhi, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was set to return to power in a central Indian state after the government of its arch-rival Congress collapsed on Friday following a mass defection of legislators led by a scion of an erstwhile royal family.
Some 22 legislators from the Indian National Congress quit earlier this month, sparking a political crisis in the mineral-rich state of Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress accused the BJP, which lost power in the state last year after a decade and a half, of causing the defection by bribing its lawmakers and triggering a majority test in the state assembly.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath declared his resignation less than two hours before a trust vote in the regional legislature.
Addressing a press conference, Nath accused the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which is in power in the center – of plotting to overthrow his government.
“I am resigning from the position of chief minister of Madhya Pradesh,” Nath said in his letter to state Governor Lalji Tandon.
The Congress government found itself in crisis on March 11 when party strongman Jyotiraditya Scindia, a scion of an erstwhile royal family in Gwalior, jumped ship to the BJP. He quit the Congress after 18 years of association with it.
Moreover, 22 state legislators, including six ministers, loyal to Scindia stepped down, leaving the government short of a legislative majority.
The grand old party and its allies ended up with only 99 seats, five short of a simple majority after the strength of the 230-member house was effectively reduced to 206. Two lawmakers had earlier passed away.
Scindia’s defection followed infighting within the Congress as he was allegedly cold-shouldered by the factions led by Nath.
Scindia, a popular and influential leader who had earlier lost out on the chief minister’s post to Nath, was not considered for the post of state party chief.
The final straw for the 49-year-old is believed to have come when he was not the party’s choice for the nomination to the Rajya Sabha, or the upper house of the Indian parliament.
“I am tendering my resignation from the primary membership of the Indian National Congress and as you well know, this path has been drawing out over the last year,” Scindia had said in his resignation letter dated March 9 to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Scindia is now expected to be given a ministerial berth in the central government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has also been given a BJP ticket for elections to the upper house of parliament.
Meanwhile, Nath, during his press conference Friday, took a dig at his former party colleague, accusing him of being power-hungry, while also alleging that the party led by Modi had been plotting against his government right from the outset.
The BJP, which has of 107 seats in the assembly, is expected to form the government in Madhya Pradesh.
By-elections are also expected for the seats that fell vacant after the resignations of Congress members, who have also shifted to the BJP.
This is the second time in less than a year that the BJP will come to power in a state despite not having initially enjoyed a majority on the floor of the legislative assembly.
A similar situation unfolded last year in the southern Indian state of Karnataka after Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, backed by the Congress, stepped down in July after legislators from the coalition defected to the BJP.