he Congress today produced 42 of its Gujarat lawmakers — who are penned at a resort in Bengaluru — before the media and said they have taken refuge in the Congress-ruled Karnataka as they feared for their lives ahead of the coming Rajya Sabha elections.
“The MLAs were scared that they would be abducted or killed since it was matter of few votes,” said senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil. “So we felt we will get security in Bengaluru, since it is a Congress government, added Mr Gohil, who is also the party’s national spokesperson.
Gujarat will witness elections in three Rajya Sabha seats – from two of which the BJP aims to field party chief Amit Shah and Smriti Irani. The Congress plans to get Ahmed Patel, party chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, elected from the third seat.
The lawmakers were hustled to the resort on Saturday, days after six Congress lawmakers resigned and three of them joined the BJP — the political crisis was triggered by the Congress’s tallest leader in the state, Shankarsinh Vaghela. The former BJP leader who joined the Congress in 2000, quit earlier this week, miffed at not being chosen its presumptive Chief Minister ahead of this year’s assembly elections.
The defection of the Congress legislators will bring down the effective strength of the House, which will lower the number of votes needed to win. It will also help the BJP to get its own candidate – Mr Vaghela’s relative Balwantsinh Rajput – to win against Mr Patel.
The Congress claims it still has the numbers to win. Ahmed Patel needs 44 votes to win – 2 short of the number of lawmakers currently in Bengaluru. Besides, two legislators from the NCP and one from JD(U) have also promised to support him. So has rebel BJP legislator Nalin Kotadiya.
Mr Vaghela’s son Mahendrasinh Vaghela, who is among the six Congress lawmakers to resign, said the party may lose another 10 legislators and hence the removal to Bengaluru. “I haven’t spoken to them (the Congress lawmakers) directly, but they are in touch with their supporters and well-wishers,” he told NDTV.
The Congress said the pressure of politics has made them unable to respond adequately to the floods in Gujarat. Three of the legislators currently in Bengaluru are from Banaskantha, the district worst-hit by the floods. Accusing the BJP of politicking at a critical natural disaster, Mr Gohil said the legislators were asked to help out in flood relief work, “but due to BJP’s poaching tactics, they were forced to come to Bengaluru”.
Denying the allegation, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, “Ahmad Patel wants to win his seat anyhow so he sent his 40 MLAs to Bengaluru. Gujarat is facing the problem of floods but they have no concern for that.”