Cong parades MLAs, BJP rubbishes buy-off claims
The Congress on Sunday 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 a 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 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 flown 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 resignation of Congress's tallest leader in the state, Shankarsinh Vaghela.
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 Vaghela's relative Balwantsinh Rajput - to win against Patel.
Countering criticism of bringing the legislators to the resort to Bengaluru when North Gujarat is reeling under heavy rain and floods, Gohil said the MLAs were brought here after party leaders came to know about BJP's attempt to poach their MLAs using "money and muscle" power.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar rejected the charge of the BJP poaching and bribing Congress MLAs.
"Gujarat Congress leaders are levelling allegations at the BJP in Bengaluru. It is like a thief criticising a cop. If their leaders are leaving them, it has nothing to do with us," Javadekar said.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who reached flood- hit Banaskantha on Sunday, said the decision to fly Congress MLAs out of the state was taken by Ahmed Patel out of his "greed" to win the poll.