The Congress on Wednesday shifted its legislators in Gujarat to a “safe location” – said to be either in the state’s northern part or in Mount Abu in Rajasthan – ahead of the bye-elections to two Rajya Sabha seats, reported The Hindu. The bye-polls will take place on Friday.
The decision was taken as at least six MLAs had defected to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the run-up to the General Elections. According to reports, some Congress MLAs may vote for BJP candidates Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Jugalji Thakor. Rebel Congress leader Alpesh Thakor and MLAs supporting him may cross-vote in the elections. The Opposition party has fielded former minister Chandrika Chudasama and local leader Gaurav Pandya.
“Since the BJP is trying to break up [the Congress] with use of money and muscle power, we are taking our MLAs to ensure that horse trading does not succeed in the Rajya Sabha bye-elections scheduled on July 5,” Congress’s Chief Whip in the Assembly Ashwin Kotwal told reporters.
Kotwal said there was no question of any fear or pressure. “Since there is no sitting of Assembly till Monday, all the MLAs have unanimously decided to utilise this mini vacation and hold a workshop at Mount Abu,” PTI quoted him as saying. “We will brainstorm and exchange ideas to chalk our strategy for the upcoming debates in the Assembly on the budgetary allocations.”
He admitted that one or two Congress legislators may vote for BJP candidates. “Both [Dhavalsinh] Zala and Thakor are still our MLAs,” he said. “We have not suspended them yet. Barring one or two MLAs, all legislators are with us and will not engage in cross-voting.”
Earlier this week, the Congress issued a whip to all its legislators, including Alpesh Thakor, to vote in favour of its candidates. Since the Supreme Court rejected Leader of the Opposition Paresh Dhanani’s plea against separate bye-elections, all MLAs will exercise their first-preference votes twice. As a result, the Congress will not have the numbers to win the seats.