Gujarat MLAs threatened by cops, offered bribe ahead of RS polls: Congress
The Congress has accused the BJP of threatening and trying to “buy” MLAs in Gujarat ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha election.india Updated: Aug 01, 2017 07:29 IST
Opposition Congress on Monday forced a brief adjournment of proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, alleging the Gujarat police abducted and threatened its MLAs in the state in order to influence their votes in the upcoming elections to the Upper House. (HIGHLIGHTS)
Congress members marched to the Well of the House, raising anti-government slogans, which were matched by counter-sloganeering by the Bharatiya Janata Party benches. Amid the pandemonium, deputy chairman PJ Kurien adjourned the proceedings for 10 minutes during the Zero Hour soon after it met in the morning.
Raising the issue, Congress’ Madhusudhan Mistry alleged his party’s legislators were being “kidnapped” and offered a bribe of “Rs 10-15 crore” in order to influence their vote in the August 8 elections to send three members from the BJP-ruled western state to the Rajya Sabha.
The BJP has fielded three members, including party president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and a rebel Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput for the election. Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser, is seeking a re-election for the fifth time from the state.
The saffron party has rejected the Congress’ charge and countered tongue and cheek whether the rival lawmakers were “purchasable”.
Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Kurien said he was not allowing Mistry’s notice under rule 267 seeking setting aside of the business to take up the issue as the same matter was raised on Friday as well.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi charged the Congress with “kidnapping” its own MLAs and lodging them in a holiday resort in Karnataka at a time when the people of Gujarat were facing miseries after flash floods.
“You should be ashamed,” he said, daring the Congress party to debate the matter in the House.
As slogan-shouting Congress members entered the Well, some BJP members moved into the aisles and raised counter slogans. Kurien said he was forced to adjourn the proceedings on Friday as well after members from both the sides came into the Well.
He said he has heard Naqvi say the government was ready for a discussion. “If you want discussion, give separate notice. We will consider it,” he said.
Congress members were unmoved but that did not prevent Kurien from calling members to raise their Zero Hour mentions. “If you have something against the government, why do you obstruct other members,” Kurien said adding that Zero Hour was members’ business and their rights are being obstructed.
“By slogan shouting, you will achieve nothing,” he added.
In the melee, AIADMK’s AK Selvaraj raised the issue of hydrocarbon exploration in Tamil Nadu and asked the government to cease all such activities as it would impact ground water table and crops.
His colleague S Muthukaruppan sought the government’s intervention for the release of 75 Tamil fishermen and their fishing boats from Sri Lankan captivity.
But Congress members remained unrelenting and continued to raise slogans, forcing Kurien to adjourn the proceedings for 10 minutes.
In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue, saying: “The Congress MLAs are being put under pressure.”
Congress chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia too alleged that each of the Congress MLAs in Gujarat was offered Rs 15 crore in return for supporting the BJP.
Both Kharge and Scindia wanted a discussion on the issue in the House.
However, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected the demand, saying it was a subject relating to a state and cannot be discussed in the House.
The Congress flew most of its Gujarat MLAs to Karnataka, which it rules, after six of its 57 lawmakers in the Gujarat assembly resigned on Friday and Saturday. The defectors are believed to be close to former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, who quit the Congress on June 21, his 77th birthday, alleging some party leaders were conspiring against him.
The defections reduced the party’s strength in the assembly to 51, but Patel still has the numbers to sail through.
Patel will need the votes of 45 lawmakers. The party hopes two Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) lawmakers will vote for him. Besides, rebel BJP lawmaker Nalin Kotadiya could switch sides.
Congress strategists fear more desertions, considering that 11 party MLAs allegedly cross-voted for the BJP-led NDA candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, in the July 17 presidential election.
But with each resignation, the number of required votes for Patel will go down too.