The 14-month-old precariously placed Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh appeared to face its first major threat to survival after the Congress on Wednesday alleged 'poaching' bid on MLAs of the ruling party and its allies by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
High drama unfolded on Wednesday, a day which saw charges flying thick and fast between the Congress and the BJP, which denied any move to topple the Nath government and asked the ruling party to keep its own house in order.
Senior Congress leaders accused the BJP of trying to bring down the party-led government, which is surviving on support of over half a dozen independent, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs.
Putting up a brave face amid the political turmoil, which comes just days ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls on March 26, Chief Minister Kamal Nath asserted that there was no threat to his government.
In a late-night political drama in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress claimed the BJP took eight MLAs to a hotel in Haryana as part of a conspiracy to topple the state government.
State minister Jitu Patwari said BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh took the eight MLAs to a hotel in Haryana as part of a conspiracy to topple the Nath government.
The BJP has denied the charge.
Nath said his government, which came to power in December 2018 by ousting the BJP, has an absolute majority and it has proved this in the state Assembly on several occasions.
He said the BJP 'faced defeat every time' and this time also, its plans will prove to be like 'Mungerilal's dream', referring to the famous fictional character from a television serial.
Nath accused the BJP of plotting a conspiracy to come back to power in the state in an 'undemocratic manner'.
Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia accused the BJP of orchestrating a move to 'poach' the legislators of his party but asserted that the Congress government was 'completely secure and stable'.
Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh claimed that a senior BJP leader took a BSP legislator to Delhi in a chartered flight, alleging that poaching attempts were being made by the BJP on Congress MLAs.
"Senior BJP leaders, including former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former ministers Narottam Mishra, Bhupendra Singh and Rampal Singh among others forcibly took eight MLAs to a hotel in Haryana as part of a conspiracy," Patwari told PTI.
"The MLAs told us that they were forcibly confined by the BJP leaders," he said.
According to Congress sources, among the eight MLAs who were taken to Haryana, four are from the Congress, one is an independent and the rest are from BSP and SP.
They said BSP MLA Rambai was allegedly manhandled when Congress ministers reached the hotel to meet her.
Digvijaya Singh had on Monday alleged his party MLAs were being offered a 'huge amount of money' by BJP leaders as part of its attempts to destabilise the Nath government.
Nath said the BJP 'killed democracy and constitutional values' in many states, including Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Haryana, and it is trying to replicate the same in Madhya Pradesh.
"We have full faith in all our MLAs, we have no doubt on their integrity, honesty. The truth of this black money earned from corruption and scams has been revealed and all BJP's conspiracies will fall flat on its face only," he added.
On the alleged poaching episode, Scindia said, "This is 100 per cent an attempt to poach (MLAs). We are united and our government is stable. We have counted the numbers and there is no threat to the government (in Madhya Pradesh)."
In a late evening development, a group of Congress, BSP and SP MLAs arrived in Bhopal in a special plane along with Madhya Pradesh Finance Minister Tarun Bhanot.
However, their exact number was not immediately known, a senior Congress leader said.
In a related development, Madhya Pradesh minister and independent MLA Pradeep Jaiswal on Wednesday said he is with Nath as long as the latter is in power, but all his options will be open in case his government falls.
"Pradeep Jaiswal is with him (Nath) as long as Kamal Nath ji is there (in power). If the government falls in future, my options will be open for development of my area and I will act according to desire of the people of my constituency," the MLA from Waraseoni in Balaghat district, a former Congressman, told reporters.
In the 230-member Assembly, the Congress has 114 MLAs, followed by the BJP with 107. The simple majority mark is 116.
The Congress-led state government has the support of four Independent MLAs, two Bahujan Samaj Party legislators and one of the Samajwadi Party. Two seats are currently vacant following the demise of a Congress and a BJP legislator.
The BJP denied the charge that it was trying to destabilise the Congress government.
Madhya Pradesh BJP chief V D Sharma said the allegations were unfortunate.
"The BJP has nothing to do with it. The BJP is making no such effort," Sharma told reporters in Bhopal.
Sharma said this is the Congress' 'internal tussle' and the answer should come from Nath and senior party leaders Scindia and Digvijaya Singh.
The Congress is leveling allegations against the BJP as it is unable to manage its own MLAs, former chief minister Chouhan said.
"We have been saying this from the beginning that we are not involved in any such (poaching) activity, but if the Congress government falls on its own, they will be responsible for it," Chouhan told reporters.