Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma's comments herald trouble for Congress in the state
Even as the Congress faces a crisis in Madhya Pradesh, it might have to gear up for trouble in Assam. Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP's go-to figure in the North East, has claimed that at least one Congress MLA from the state has expressed a desire to join the ruling party. Mr Sarma also said that at least three others were in talks to do the same.
"Within a few days an important MLA of Congress will join the BJP. Some other Congress MLAs will also join soon and more are in touch. We might be able to give more news soon. This is time for election but these desertions, if it happens, will not be related to Rajya Sabha polls," Mr Sarma said.
"If Congress and AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) contest Rajya Sabha elections together, they will get the third seat. It is clear, there is no twist in the story," he added.
Mr Sarma's claims come on a day when former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi warned that the BJP would indulge in "horse-trading" ahead of MLAs' vote for three Rajya Sabha seats on March 26.
The Congress has 23 MLAs in the Assam Assembly and, with the AIUDF, will support the candidature of senior journalist Atanu Bhuyan.
The opposition parties want to make use of anti-citizenship law sentiments and also test alliance bonds ahead of Assembly elections in the state next year.
The BJP, meanwhile, has declared candidates for two of three seats. The party had initially indicated that it might not field one for the third as chances of winning were low.
Now, however, it appears that the party has rethought its strategy.
The potential trouble in Assam, from where the Congress was ousted in 2016 polls after a disastrous performance that saw it lose 53 seats compared to the previous election, comes as Madhya Pradesh could become the second Congress-ruled state to be captured by the BJP in less than 12 months.
Influential young leader and former Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia resigned from the party in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, minutes after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.
His resignation was followed by that of 22 Congress MLAs – at least 17 of whom had been flown to BJP-ruled Karnataka on Monday – leaving Chief Minister Kamal Nath's government near collapse.
Should the resignation of the 22 MLAs be accepted, the Congress will have only 99 MLAs (including allies) in a house where the majority mark will be 104. The BJP, with 107 MLAs to its name, will be in the majority and will stake a claim to power.