Gohil also denied reports in a section of the media that the MLAs would first be flown to New Delhi to meet party chief Sonia Gandhi.
New Delhi: The 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs who have been camping at a resort near Bengaluru for the past few days are all set to return to Ahmedabad on Monday, a day before the all-important Rajya Sabha election in the state on Tuesday. Fearing defections and threats, the Congress had shifted its MLAs from Gujarat to party-ruled Karnataka, and kept at a resort to secure them from “threats”. The party had claimed the ruling BJP in Gujarat was threatening the Congress MLAs with the help of the administrative machinery and forcing them to join the BJP.
Congress MLA and spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil said: “All the MLAs who are in Karnataka will be flying to Ahmedabad soon. The BJP is spreading all kinds of canards, but all of us are together.” Earlier, the 44 MLAs had also met Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala, who hails from Gujarat and has been a minister in that state and an MLA from Rajkot.
Once they are back in Ahmedabad, they will be kept in a “secure location” in order to “ward off threats”. Insiders said they would celebrate Raksha Bandhan with their families at the safe location.
Mr Gohil also denied reports in a section of the media that the MLAs would first be flown to New Delhi to meet party chief Sonia Gandhi, and told reporters that they would be returning to Gujarat “directly”. He said the reports of the MLAs going to Delhi was a “canard” being spread by the BJP.
Over the past month, eight of the Congress’ 57 MLAs had deserted the party, out of which three have already joined the BJP and three others are in touch with the saffron party. Two other MLAs — including former CM Shankarsinh Vaghela and his son Mahendrasinh Vaghela — both elected on a Congress ticket, have also left the party, which has reduced the Congress’ strength from 57 to 49. Besides the eight Congress MLAs who have openly left the party, there are at least three others who have expressed their desire to quit. If this happens, it will further reduce the strength of the Congress to 46.
There are now three Rajya Sabha vacancies in the state. The BJP has itself put up three candidates — including party president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and former Congress MLA and now BJP candidate Balwantsinh Rajput. The Congress has put up Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, for a fifth term. As per the Assembly strength of these parties, the first two BJP candidates should win easily, but there will be a contest between Mr Patel and Mr Rajput.
With the effective strength of the Assembly reduced to 176 due to the Congress resignations, every candidate now requires 44 votes to win. The Congress claims it will get an easy victory as it has 44 MLAs and two NCP MLAs and one JD(U) MLA have pledged support to the party’s candidate.