Last resort: Gujarat Congress packs 65 MLA in hotels after 3 resignations | India News

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Jun 7, 2020

AHMEDABAD: A desperate Gujarat Congress has packed its flock of 65 MLAs into three resorts and hotels to keep them together ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha polls.
With eight Congress MLAs resigning ever since RS polls were announced — three, namely Akshay Patel (Karjan), Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada) and Brijesh Merja (Morbi), resigned in the past two days — the beleaguered party, yet again, packed off its remaining 65 MLAs to three resorts near Ambaji, Rajkot and Vadodara on Saturday.
Congress leaders confirmed that the 65 MLAs have been housed at Neel City Resort in Rajkot, at Wild Winds Resort in neighbouring Congress-ruled Rajasthan, and at Aries Riverside Farmhouse near Vadodara. Sources in the party said about 40 MLAs have been housed at Neel City in Rajkot and the remainder at the two other locations. Neel City resort is owned by Congress leader Indranil Rajyaguru, who contested against CM Vijay Rupani in the 2017 assembly polls.
The move came amid sources insisting there was a strong possibility that two more Congress MLAs, who are disgruntled with the leadership, might resign before the June 19 RS polls.
Congress spokesperson Jayrajsinh Parmar said that there is no restriction on the MLAs moving out of the resorts but the step had been taken to ensure BJP did not use coercive means to poach Congress MLAs. “There will not be any more defections now. The MLAs will go through training sessions on how the RS election is held and how they will be supposed to cast their votes,” he said.
It appeared a desperate measure in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic as Congress MLAs were seen standing in close proximity to each other, many not even wearing masks.
State BJP president Jitu Vaghani said the Congress’ move to shift its MLAs to safe locations was an internal matter of the party. “Going by the resignations, it is clear that not just the people of Gujarat, but even elected MLAs have lost confidence in the leadership. Congress does not have the numbers to get two candidates elected, while BJP is comfortably placed to ensure the victory of all its three candidates,” Vaghani said.
This is the third time in less than three years, and the second in three months, that Congress has had to move its Gujarat legislators to safe locations to prevent defections. While the party airlifted its MLAs to a resort in Karnataka before the 2017 Rajya Sabha election which senior party leader Ahmed Patel won by a whisker, this year, in March, the Congress flew its MLAs to Rajasthan in the wake of five MLAs resigning. The RS poll was deferred because of the pandemic and the party lost three more MLAs in the past three days after the announcement of June 19 as the new date for the Rajya Sabha election.
BJP has 103 MLAs and Congress has 65 in the 182-member assembly. Ten seats are vacant because of resignations and court cases, while BTP has two MLAs, NCP has one and one MLA is an Independent. A candidate will require 35 first-preference votes to secure an outright win in the June 19 Rajya Sabha election.

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