A BSP MLA escorted by Congress leaders from a resort in Delhi, where the BJP has reportedly detained them
The attempt to topple the 15-month-old Congress government in Madhya Pradesh – pushed to the brink after 10 of its MLAs were confined at a five-star resort near Delhi and reportedly offered up to Rs 35 crore – was allegedly hatched by a group of BJP leaders, including MLA and former cabinet minister Narottam Mishra, sources have told NDTV.
In dramatic developments in the early hours of Wednesday, the Congress's Digvijaya Singh headed a "rescue" operation with his son and another leader; they escorted a BSP MLA from the resort. Four other MLAs remain inside the resort, Mr Singh said, warning the BJP that not a "single Congress MLA from Madhya Pradesh is for sale".
"I have never made any allegations (but) Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Narottam Mishra both had a dispute over who will become chief minister. Now it has been decided one will be chief minister, other the deputy," he said, accusing the two of approaching MLAs.
"This would not be tolerated," the two-time former Chief Minister added.
According to the sources the plan – Operation Rangpanchami (named because the BJP wanted the government to fall during the festival of Holi) – was conceived a month ago outside the state. The plan, they said, was the third such attempt in less than 10 months.
The BJP's alleged involvement in any such operation has been steadfastly denied by Mr Mishra, who told NDTV "the date for Holi is fixed… and how can I tell when this government's internal problems and contradictions will cause it to fall?"
BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, whom sources had also named in the alleged plot, has also denied his party's role in the matter, saying, "Congress MLAs themselves are worried. This is their internal matter. And they accuse us. What is this?"
The first of the two prior attempts that sources referred to was foiled in July last year, when the BJP courted around seven Congress MLAs from the Gwalior-Chambal region.
The ruling party responded by persuading two BJP leaders – Narayan Tripathi and Sharad Kol, both former members of the Congress – to vote in support of a crucial bill. Speaking after the vote, both Mr Tripathi and Mr Kol called it a "ghar wapsi" (home coming) of sorts.
The second attempt, sources said, took place in November. This time also the bid was led by Narottam Mishra, sources added. However, this too was foiled after a senior BJP leader from the Malwa-Nimar region backed out at the last moment.
Sources also said the BJP's plan was to take advantage of the chaos to install a government led by former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan with Mr Mishra as a deputy.
Sources have said the BJP's Narottam Mishra is part of the plot to unseat the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh
The plan involved directing the Congress MLAs who had expressed willingness to support the BJP to resign, thereby reducing the government to a minority and prompting fresh polls.
They would then contest these by-polls on BJP tickets, in a sequence of events resembling the manner in which the Congress-JDS fell in Karnataka and the BJP then came to power.
The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has a wafer-thin majority in the Assembly. Chief Minister Kamal Nath has the support of 120 MLAs – four over the majority mark. Of these, 113 are from his party, two are from the BSP and one is from the Samajwadi Party.
Four independent MLAs are also part of the government.
The four are reportedly still inside the hotel are Congress's Hardeep Dang, Raghuraj Kansana and Bisahulal Singh and Shera Bhaiya, an independent MLA. There are reports they may be moved to Chikmagalur in BJP-ruled Karnataka