Gujarat Congress flies over 40 MLAs to Bengaluru to prevent defections to BJP after 6 leaders quit

After six of its MLAs quit the party ahead of the crucial 8 August Rajya Sabha polls, the Congress leadership decided to "shift" its MLAs in Gujarat to Bengaluru to guard them from being "poached" by the BJP .

"Looking at the current situation (in Gujarat), where attempts are being made to lure our members, we are taking 46 of our MLAs to Bengaluru," said a senior party leader told PTI, requesting anonymity.

The Times of India quoted Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar as saying, "To ensure BJP is not successful, 44 of us (Congress MLAs) are leaving from Gujarat for Bengaluru." The number of MLAs who have been flown to Bengaluru remains contentious because according to Chidananda Patel of ETV Kannada, 32 MLAs arrived at Bengaluru International Airport at 2.30 am and and 10 others arrived at 5 am.

They are expected to be in Bengaluru for at least a week with Gujarat Congress unit president Bharatsinh Solanki. These MLAs are staying at Eagleton The Golf Resort, which is about 22 kilometres from Ramanagara. Patel also reported that Congress MP DK Suresh, the younger brother of Karnataka Power Minister DK Shivakumar, escorted the MLAs to the resort.

Gujarat Congress flies over 40 MLAs to Bengaluru to prevent defections to BJP after 6 leaders quit

Congress MLAs at Bengaluru airport. Image courtesy: Chidananda Patel

Suresh dismissed reports that it was a move to stall horse trading. He told Patel that the MLAs are in Bengaluru to visit Tirupati and other places.

Senior Congress leader Naresh Rawal told NDTV the party had been forced to fly out the legislators "since the Gujarat government was harassing them and forcing them to cross over."

In a major setback for the Opposition party in Gujarat, three more of its MLAs resigned on Friday, taking the number of legislators who quit the party ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls to six. Mansingh Chouhan, Chhanabhai Chaudhary and Ramsinh Parmar handed over their resignation to the Assembly Speaker Ramanlal Vora.

On Thursday, three party MLAs considered close to Shankarsinh Vaghela quit and joined the BJP, which quickly declared one of them its candidate for next month's Rajya Sabha polls against Congress veteran Ahmed Patel. The Congress has re-nominated Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to party chief Sonia Gandhi, to the Upper House of Parliament from Gujarat.

The situation is quite precarious for Ahmed Patel. The leader needs 47 votes to win the state Rajya Sabha elections and after losing the six MLAs, the number of MLAs supporting Patel stands at 51.

BJP has fielded its party chief Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani for the two seats.

On Friday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanded that the Election Commission lodged a criminal case against the BJP for "poaching" its MLAs using "money and muscle" power, a charge denied by the saffron party.

The Congress has accused the BJP of horse-trading in Gujarat and using "money, muscle and state power" to engineer defections. Stating that the party is keeping all options open, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi warned the MLAs of serious consequences of the anti-defection law that can lead to disqualification from contesting elections up to six years.

"Crores of rupees have been spent in horse-trading in Gujarat by the BJP. You have seen this naked drama...The policy of the BJP in Gujarat is — by hook or by crook, come to power by breaking all laws," he said.

Meanwhile, the BJP said that the decision of senior Congress leaders to quit the party shows that Congress is a sinking ship. "The entire allegations of the Congress that the BJP is doing horse-trading in Gujarat is not only false and laughable but shows its utter desperation," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 29, 2017 14:43:46 IST

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