Amid the deepening political crisis in Jharkhand due to the uncertainty over Chief Minister Hemant Soren's fate as an MLA, Soren and ruling legislators were seen leaving for some unknown destination on three buses.
The three buses were occupied by the legislators of the ruling JMM-Congress-RJD coalition and guarded by security personnel.
Sources said the legislators are being shifted to a "friendly state", which could either be West Bengal or Chhattisgarh. Both states have non-BJP governments.
The development took place soon after a marathon third round of a meeting of legislators of the ruling alliance at the chief minister's residence to chalk out a strategy to deal with the emerging scenario.
The ruling MLAs took part in the meeting along with their luggage.
State Rural Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Alamgir Alam claimed the MLAs were going for a "picnic at Moments Resort in Latratu in neighbouring Khunti district".
Incidentally, Alam had on Friday said that the MLAs of the ruling alliance cannot be poached and will stay in Ranchi.
Another minister, Banna Gupta, also claimed that the MLAs were going to Latratu and would return by evening.
Congress legislator Deepika Pandey Singh said it was a "break for refreshment".
Another MLA, Shilpi Neha Tirkey, said, "We will follow the directions of the party."
A Congress source had earlier said that all arrangements have been made to park the coalition legislators in either Chhattisgarh or West Bengal.
The source said three locations in Chhattisgarh, including Barmuda and Raipur, and some places in West Bengal have been identified.
"All ruling MLAs will be sent to a single destination if the need arises," another source said.
A JMM source said the option to take the legislators out of Jharkhand was open and all preparations have been made.
In the rapidly changing political scenario, ‘resort politics’ is the need of the hour to keep the numbers of the ruling alliance intact, party sources asserted.
Earlier during the day, BJP's Godda MP Nishikant Dubey, known for his controversial remarks, tweeted: "According to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha sources, some MLAs reached Chhattisgarh at 2 am. Most of the MLAs are reluctant to go and are waiting for the orders of senior JMM leader Basant Soren. Some buses are parked in Ranchi for MLAs."
The ECI sent its opinion to Bais on August 25 on a plea seeking that Soren be disqualified as an MLA for violating electoral norms by extending a mining lease to himself.
Meanwhile, Raj Bhavan sources said the governor may take a call by evening on the ECI views on "disqualification" of the chief minister as an MLA and send the disqualification order to the commission.
The BJP, the petitioner in the case, has sought Soren's disqualification for violating Section 9 (A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with disqualification for government contracts.
The clause states that "a person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate government for the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that government".
The issue was referred to the governor and by him to the EC, as Article 192 of the Constitution states that on rulings regarding an MLA's disqualification, the question shall be referred to the governor who in turn "shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion".
The ruling coalition has 49 MLAs in the 81-member Assembly.
The JMM, the largest party, has 30 MLAs, the Congress 18 legislators, and the RJD one. The main opposition BJP has 26 MLAs in the House.
The coalition partners had on Thursday claimed that there was no threat to the government.
The JMM had exuded confidence that Soren will remain the chief minister for the full term till 2024.