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All Congress MLAs in Gujarat get police protection

The security cover was given to nine of the 51 Congress MLAs who stayed back in Gujarat as well as the 42 that the party took to Bengaluru on Friday to shield them from the alleged poaching attempts.

india Updated: Jul 31, 2017 22:51 IST
Hiral Dave
Gujarat Congress MLAs during a press conference at a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru on Sunday.
Gujarat Congress MLAs during a press conference at a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

Police protection was given to all the Congress legislators in Gujarat on Monday following Election Commission’s order on a party complaint that the ruling BJP was trying to bribe and coerce its MLAs to defect ahead of the Rajya Sabha election in the state.

The security cover was given to nine of the 51 Congress MLAs who stayed back in Gujarat as well as the 42 that the party took to Bengaluru on Friday to shield them from the alleged poaching attempts.

The 42 MLAs are staying at a sprawling resort outside the Karnataka capital since six lawmakers of the party resigned in the run-up to the August 8 election in which Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, is contesting.

Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said in Bengaluru on Sunday that the legislators staying in Bengaluru are willing to return home if chief minister Vijay Rupani promises their safety.

“Two MLAs in Valsad district are being provided police protection as per the EC’s instruction,” said a top police officer. “Two armed constables were deployed for round-the-clock security.”

Lawmakers Ishwar Patel and Jitu Chaudhary could not go to Bengaluru for personal reasons.

Security cover was also given to six alleged rebel Congress MLAs, who chose not to join their colleagues in Bengaluru.

Raghvji Patel, known to be close to former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, said: “I received a call from home that two policemen have arrived, though I haven’t asked for any security cover.”

He said he will resign from the Congress soon.

The BJP has fielded three candidates — party chief Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and Congress turncoat Balwantsinh Rajput.

The defectors are believed to be loyal to Vaghela, who quit the Congress on July 21, alleging that some party leaders were conspiring against him. Vaghela was with the BJP before he broke ranks in 1996 and formed his own party, which later merged with the Congress.

Sources said chief secretary JN Singh is likely to submit by Monday night an inquiry report on the alleged horse-trading that the Election Commission had sought.

Trouble began for the Congress after the political heavyweight resigned. A spate of resignations followed last Friday and Saturday and three of the six defectors joined the BJP.

The Congress alleged that its lawmakers have been threatened and offered money to defect. The BJP denied the charges and criticised the Congress legislators for leaving the state when it was reeling under floods.

Chief minister Rupani is camping in flood-affected districts of northern Gujarat since Sunday. The BJP’s Rajya Sabha poll candidates, Irani and Rajput, visited flood-hit people in Banaskantha, one of the worst-affected districts.

Congress’s Ahmed Patel was in Banaskantha on Sunday.

The defections reduced the party’s strength in the assembly to 51, but Patel could still sail through as he needs 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.

Vaghela too visited the area on Saturday and criticised the six Congress MLAs from northern Gujarat for ditching the people at their hour of need.

Congress supporters protested against the turncoats outside the BJP office in Ahmedabad on Monday.