The political drama in Madhya Pradesh is all set to shift to the Assembly after the governor directed Chief Minister Kamal Nath to seek a trust vote on Monday and Speaker NP Prajapati said he will first give a ruling on whether to hold the floor test.
As the rebellion led by Jyotiraditya Scindia threatened the survival of its government, the Congress appeared keen on putting off the trust vote and asserted that it is the Speaker's prerogative to decide about the proceedings of the House, but a buoyed BJP maintained that he was bound by the governor's direction.
After the Speaker accepted the resignation of six Congress MLAs on Saturday, the party now has 108 legislators. These include 16 rebel legislators who have also put in their papers but their resignations are yet to be accepted.
The BJP has 107 seats in the House which now has an effective strength of 222, with the majority mark being 112.
To add to the ruling Congress' woes, it is yet uncertain whether it will continue getting the support of four Independents, two BSP MLAs and one MLA from the SP.
The week-long political drama saw both the Congress and the BJP herding their MLAs to resorts outside the state due to fears of poaching. While the Congress MLAs returned on Sunday from Jaipur, the BJP too was bringing back its legislators from Haryana to attend the first day of the session on Monday.
Both the parties have issued whips to their MLAs.
On Saturday night, Governor Lalji Tandon wrote to Kamal Nath asking him to seek a trust vote in the Assembly soon after the governor address on Monday, saying his government was in minority.
Referring to resignations of 22 Congress MLAs, the Governor said: "Based on the above facts, prima facie, I believe that your government has lost the confidence of the House and it is in minority.
"This is a very serious issue and therefore as per the constitutional provisions and for protecting the democratic values, it is necessary that on March 16, soon after my address, you seek the trust vote in the Assembly."
"Under Article 174 and 175(2) of the Constitution, I am empowered to direct that MP Assembly session will begin on March 16 at 11 am with my address. Soon after that the only work to be done is voting on trust vote," the letter.
The governor also directed that the trust vote be held by division of votes and the process be recorded on video by the Vidhan Sabha through independent persons.
He said it "must be completed under any circumstances on March 16, 2020 and it should not be adjourned, delayed or suspended".
But the Assembly Speaker on Sunday remained non committal over the trust vote.
This will be known tomorrow... I will read out my ruling tomorrow," he told reporters when asked if the trust vote will be held on Monday.
There were indications on Sunday that the beleaguered Congress government might seek to buy time from the Speaker to win back some of its 16 rebels MLAs.
The governor has directed the chief minister to seek confidence vote after his address. But, the Assembly Speaker decides the proceedings of the House, MP Law and Legal Affairs Minister PC Sharma argued.
What all will be done in the House, the Speaker decides, the Minister contended and expressed confidence his party will prove majority on the floor comfortably.
The party has alleged that the BJP was holding the rebels MLAs captive at a hotel in Bengaluru, a charge denied by the saffron party outright.
Another Congress MLA said that the floor test "might not take place on Monday" and the issue could even go to court.
As suspense remained on whether a trust vote will be held or not on Monday, sources said both the parties were mulling legal recourse in case the proceedings do not go their way.
"The Congress has lost the majority. The Governor is saying that it is a minority. I am not saying this. This has been mentioned in the letter sent to Chief Minister by the Governor, the BJP chief whip in the assembly, Narottam Mishra, said.
BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said Chief Minister Kamal Nath should step down as the Congress government has become "lame-duck" after the resignation of the 22 MLAs.
BJP legislative party sources said that it will vociferously press for the trust vote after the Governor's address.
The opposition party claims that the political crisis in the state is due to internal fighting in the Congress and it has nothing to do with it.
The 19 rebel Congress MLAs are likely to return by Monday morning, a source close to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has joined the BJP, said.
Amid the political slugfest, state public relations minister PC Sharma on Sunday demanded that all the MLAs be screened for coronavirus.
"The MLAs who have returned from Jaipur and also those who have gone to Haryana and Benguluru should undergo coronavirus tests. It is important as the virus has spread in Jaipur and Haryana," he said.
Meanwhile, a team of doctors reached hotel Courtyard by Marriot in MP Nagar here, where Congress MLAs are put up after coming from Jaipur, for coronavirus screening.
State Minister of Health and Finance Tarun Bhanot had earlier said the legislators would be screened for the virus.