Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Friday met Governor Lalji Tandon in Bhopal and told him that the Bharatiya Janata Party had indulged in “horse-trading” of legislators and had held 19 of them captive, ANI reported. As many as 22 Congress MLAs in the state had resigned from the Assembly on Tuesday, sending the party’s government into a crisis.

The MLAs resigned after long-time Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, whom they were loyal to, quit the party on Tuesday. Ahead of Scindia’s exit, the MLAs were allegedly flown to BJP-ruled Karnataka in a bid to keep them together.

Nath told the governor that the party was ready to take the floor test during the Budget Session beginning from March 16. After the meeting, Nath said: “Floor test will happen but it will be possible only when there is freedom. Where is the freedom when 22 MLAs are held captive? Some say that they are coming back. When are they coming back?”

“I’m constrained to point out the immoral, unethical and illegal acts of Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh,” Nath said in his letter to Tandon. “The very edifice of democracy is in danger. Trust of a transparent democratic process seems lost. It merits full investigation and enquiry, so that persons responsible for derailing the democratic institutional process are exposed and punished.”

In the letter, he also pointed out the late-night “rescue” operation of the Congress MLAs led by party leader Digvijaya Singh last week at a Gurugram hotel. Nath urged the governor to ensure the release of Congress MLAs allegedly still held captive in Bengaluru.

“As a responsible leader of Indian National Congress, I invite and would welcome a floor test of my government in the forthcoming session of Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly already notified from 16th March 2020, on a date fixed by the Speaker,” he said. “We assure the people of Madhya Pradesh that we will not leave any stone unturned to ensure triumph of democracy and the legislative process, to uphold the Constitution and the values enshrined therein.”

The meeting came after Assembly Speaker NP Prajapati had asked the MLAs to verify in person that they had submitted their resignations independently and under no duress. Nath met the governor after he returned to Bhopal from the Holi vacation.

The Congress had earlier asked Prajapati to disqualify six rebel state ministers of the Kamal Nath Cabinet as MLAs. The party has maintained that it will prove its strength on the floor of the House.

Before the resignations, the government had a wafer-thin majority – the party had 114 MLAs of its own in the 230-seat state Assembly, and seven others supported it. Two seats are vacant. If the 22 resignations are accepted, the Congress would be reduced to 92 MLAs and the government would collapse.