Kamal Nath on Friday quit as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, hours before the Supreme Court-ordered floor test deadline, as his government stared at a certain defeat in the assembly after the Speaker accepted the resignation of all 22 rebel MLAs.
Governor Lalji Tandon accepted his resignation, which he submitted around 1 pm on Friday, an official of the Raj Bhawan said. The governor also asked Nath, 72, to continue as the caretaker chief minister till the new CM takes charge.
Nath's resignation brought an end to the 18-day-long political drama which also played out in Haryana, Bengaluru and the national capital.
"In my 40-year-long public life, I have always done politics of purity and valued democratic norms and given priority to it. But what transpired in the last two weeks is a new chapter of devaluation of democratic values," Nath said in his resignation letter.
His resignation brought good tidings for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has the magic number of 104 in the 230-member assembly, whose effective strength now is 206 after the resignation of 22 MLAs and death of two more.
After former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress, 22 MLAs, most of them loyal to him, had resigned from the assembly. After their resignations were accepted, it brought down the tally of the Congress to 92.
A BJP leader said his party was now on the threshold of forming the government in the state.
Before stepping down as the chief minister, Nath addressed a press conference, where he said, "Today, I have decided to tender my resignation to the governor to preserve the country's democratic values."
"Today will be followed by tomorrow," he said, indicating that he hopes to bounce back.
"I never indulged in politics of auction and horse-trading. I have done clean politics based on values, and the people stand witness to it," he said.
"I took over the office of CM on December 17, 2018. I believe in politics of development. In my career I have pursued it. I was given an opportunity for a period of five years to give a new identity to the state.
Nath said nobody could point a finger at him during his tenure as the chief minister.
"But during my 15-month rule, the BJP didn't like people-centric works of my government. Right from the day I took over as the chief minister, the BJP tried to destabilise my government," he said.
Nath alleged that the 22 Congress MLAs were held captive in Bengaluru by the BJP, which he claimed was seen by the entire country.
"One ambitious and power hungry Maharaja rejected by the public and his 22 greedy MLAs and the BJP conspired to kill democratic values," Nath said, attacking Scindia, who lost the last Lok Sabha polls from Guna in Madhya Pradesh.
"People of the state won't forgive these greedy and rebels (MLAs) who have betrayed them. BJP killed the democratic values by conspiring," he said.
"I have proved my majority on the floor of the House thrice during my 15-month stint... but BJP betrayed the people of the state by destabilising the government," he said.
Nath mentioned the works done by his government, including the farm loan waiver and development of cow shelters.
"BJP betrayed the farmers by conspiring against me," he said, claiming that 400 promises made in the election manifesto were completed under his rule.
He said the BJP was afraid of the success of his government.
BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia termed Kamal Nath's resignation as people's victory in Madhya Pradesh.
He said he has always believed that politics should be a medium of serving people. "However, the (Kamal Nath-led government had digressed from that path," Scindia tweeted.
Truth has prevailed, he added.
The BJP said it had nothing to do with the political developments saying it was a fallout of the factionalism in the Congress.
Political sources said the drama started on March 3, after 10 disgruntled MLAs of the Congress and its allies holed up at a hotel in Haryana and contacted the BJP leadership, apparently to topple the Kamal Nath government.
On the night of March 3, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, his son Jaivardhan and MP Ministers Jitu Patwari and Tarun Bhanot rushed to Haryana and were able to bring back six MLAs to Bhopal.
Meanwhile, four disgruntled MLAs were flown to Bengaluru. Two of them- Congress MLA Bisahulal Singh and an Independent Surendra Singh Sheera -- were cajoled and brought back to Bhopal. But, Bisahulal Singh flew back to Bengaluru and stayed there with the rebel MLAs, the sources said.
After this unsuccessful bid, the BJP set its eyes on Scindia, who was then in Congress and did not get along well with Nath and Digvijaya Singh, the sources said.
As many as 19 MLAs loyal to Scindia went incommunicado on March 9. That evening they landed up at a resort in Bengaluru. They were joined by three other MLAs.
The 22 legislators then e-mailed their resignation which was accepted in two phases, reducing the Congress government to a minority.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court had ordered the Madhya Pradesh assembly Speaker to conduct a floor test in the assembly by 5 pm.