RS election: Lunch and dinner diplomacy in Cong to keep flock together

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2016 21:31 IST
Congress leader and MP Kamal Nath meeting with party MLAs in connection with the Rajya Sabha elections, in Bhopal on Thursday. (Mujeeb Faruqui/ HT photo)

Aiming to keep its flock together and also consolidate support announced by BSP MLAs, the opposition Congress continued the lunch and dinner politics here on Friday also to ensure victory of legal eagle-turned-party’s nominee Vivek Tankha in Saturday’s biennial Rajya Sabha poll.

A day after the dinner thrown by state Congress president Arun Yadav was attended by 45 out of the party’s 57 party MLAs on Thursday evening, a total of 58 legislators, including an independent MLA and the four BSP legislators attended the lunch thrown by party candidate Vivek Tankha here on Friday.

“Out of the 57 MLAs of the party, 53 were present at the lunch in Noor Us Sabah hotel in Bhopal. Four BSP MLAs and an independent legislator from Seoni district, Dinesh Rai ‘Munmun’ was also present, which means that the we already have the support of 58 MLAs, required to win Saturday’s election,” said state party spokesperson KK Mishra.

He added that among the four other MLAs of the party, the hospitalised leader of opposition in state assembly, Satydev Katare has already been permitted to cast his vote through postal ballot, while another ailing legislator Govardhan Upadhyaya will reach Bhopal on Saturday morning to vote for the party candidate.

Also, the rape accused Barwani MLA Ramesh Patel, who was granted bail by the MP High Court on Wednesday, was released from Barwani Central Jail on Friday. “Immediately after coming out the jail, Patel rang senior leaders to assure voting in support of party nominee,” added Mishra.

The fourth party MLA who was not present at the grand lunch on Friday was Jatara (Tikamgarh) legislator Dinesh Ahirwar, who has been openly seen hobnobbing with the ruling BJP since 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With the opposition party already having issued a whip to its legislators to vote for the official party candidate, Ahirwar’s prospects of voting for the BJP-supported independent candidate Vinod Gontiya look bleak.

A dinner was slated to be hosted by the ex-union minister and Chhindwara MP Kamal Nath in the evening at his official residence in Bhopal.

According to sources within the party, the party is aiming to ensure Tankha’s victory by polling a solid 62 votes, for which all party MLAs will be stayed put at a hotel on state capital’s outskirts.

Escorted by senior party leaders, including state Congress chief Arun Yadav, ex-union minister and Chhindwara MP Kamal Nath and other party functionaries, the party MLAs will be brought from the hotel in two air-conditioned buses for voting on Saturday morning.

BJP goes slow on third seat

On the contrary, having realized it well that it cannot win the third Rajya Sabha seat having suffered one setback after another the BJP is going slow and has now channelized its entire energy to train the MLAs how to cast their votes so that none of the votes become invalid.

The state BJP general secretary Vinod Gontia has been fielded as an independent candidate to lock horns with Vivek Tankha. Gontia too has avoided making any desperate attempt for wooing the Opposition or the independent MLAs. It’s BJP’s go-slow stand now that one of the independent candidates Dinesh Rai ‘Munmun’ is seen in the Congress camp now.

“BJP is contesting for two seats and our victory is certain on two of the three seats. Hence, we are relaxed but there is panic in the Congress. They are generously spending money and offering lunch and dinner to the MLAs at 5-star hotels. It seems they are not sure about their victory”, said the state BJP media in charge Dr Hitesh Bajpai.

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