Rajya Sabha polls: Congress shifts 21 Gujarat MLAs to Rajasthan
Ahmedabad, June 07: The Congress on Sunday shifted 21 of its Gujarat MLAs to a resort in Abu Road in Rajasthan and alleged that the BJP was indulging in horse-trading ahead of the June 19 polls for four Rajya Sabha seats.
After the resignations of three MLAs, the Congress, whose strength has been reduced to 65 in the 182-member House, had earlier shifted its legislators to three resorts in Rajkot, Ambaji in Banaskantha district and Anand in Gujarat to thwart any "poaching" bid.
However, a police complaint was file on June 7 for alleged violation of lockdown norms against a resort in Rajkot district where the Congress had lodged some of its MLAs.
A party leader said that "21 Congress legislators are camping at a resort in Abu Road. More are about to come from North Gujarat on Monday".
Abu Road is in Sirohi district of Rajasthan which shares its border with Banaskantha.
Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda hit out at the BJP government in Gujarat, saying instead of fighting the coronavirus crisis it was busy using its machinery to poach the MLAs of other parties.
"At a time when government should work to save lives of people from coronavirus crisis, the government is busy using its machinery for threatening and horse trading of people's representatives. Our MLAs are camping here to decide on future strategy," Mr. Chavda told reporters in Abu Road.
The BJP has refuted the allegations of horse-trading.
The Congress had in March also taken its MLAs to a resort in Jaipur after five party legislators resigned before the March 26 Rajya Sabha polls, which were subsequently postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Gujarat Police registered an FIR against the owner and manager of Neelcity Resort in Rajkot under Indian Penal Code Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) for opening the resort for Congress MLAs, in alleged violation of the lockdown notification which does not allow hotels and restaurants to open till June 8.
"We have lodged the first information report [FIR] against the owner and manager of the Neelcity Resort where Congress MLAs are staying. They have been booked for flouting the lockdown notification by opening the resort," University Road Police Station Inspector R.S. Thakar said.
As per Central and State government guidelines, hotels and restaurants can start operations from June 8, while Congess MLAs from Saurashtra region were lodged in the Rajkot resort on June 6.
Over the last few days, Congress' Akshay Patel, Jitu Chaudhary and Brijesh Merja resigned as legislators.
Earlier, Pravin Maru, Pradyumnasinh Jadeja, Soman Patel, J.V. Kakidia, and Mangal Gavit resigned in March.
The BJP, having 103 MLAs in the Assembly, has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramilaben Bara, and Narhari Amin.
With the reduced strength of 65, the Congress may find it difficult to win two Rajya Sabha seats for which it has fielded Bharatsinh Solanki and Shaktisinh Gohil.
A party MLA said Mr. Solanki remains the second preference after Mr. Gohil, and that they will vote as per the directive of the party on June 19.
"All 65 MLAs are united. There is no internal factionalism in the Congress. Bharatsinh [Solanki] himself knows he is the second candidate.
"It is the party's decision. We will cast our vote as per the directive of the party. State unit party president Amitbhai Chavda has also announced that Shaktisinh is our primary candidate," said MLA Vikram Madam.
Besides the BJP and Congress, the 182-member Assembly also comprises two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, one MLA of the NCP and an Independent legislator, Jignesh Mevani.
The effective strength of the House, however, stands at 172 as of now as 10 seats are currently vacant - two due to court cases and the rest because of resignations.