‘Happy and united’ MLAs back to Gujarat, Cong says Ahmed Patel will win RS poll

The Congress took its Gujarat MLAs to Karnataka, where the party is in power, after six of its 57 lawmakers in the Gujarat assembly resigned. Three of the defectors joined the BJP.
Gujarat Congress MLAs all decked up as they head home from Bengaluru.(HT Photo)
Gujarat Congress MLAs all decked up as they head home from Bengaluru.(HT Photo)
Updated on Aug 07, 2017 01:14 PM IST
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Ahmedabad/Bengaluru, Hindustan Times | ByHiral Dave and Vikram Gopal

The 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat, who were flown to Karnataka to keep them safe from alleged poaching attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections on Tuesday, reached Anand under police protection on Monday.

The MLAs were shifted to a resort near Bengaluru by the Congress that wants to ensure the election of its senior leader Ahmed Patel, who is contesting for one of three seats to the Upper House. Patel needs the support of 45 MLAs to be re-elected and the Congress is doing everything it can to keep its flock together.

The BJP has fielded its president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani on two seats, and Congress defector Balwantsinh Rajput on the third against Patel in the high-stakes battle.

The Congress legislators were ferried from the resort near Bengaluru, where they have been staying since July 29, in two buses, and were accompanied by Karnataka energy minister DK Shivakumar and his brother DK Suresh, who is a Lok Sabha MP from the Bengaluru Rural constituency.

They caught a flight at 2.40am to Ahmedabad from the Kempegowda International Airport. Before their departure, they were felicitated in the traditional Karnataka style and were each given Mysore petas, the traditional head gear.

From Ahmedabad, they reached a resort in Khandhali a day before the crucial Rajya Sabha poll to be with their families on occasion of the Hindu festival of Rakshabandhan. Their family members have also been brought to the resort to celebrate the festival.

The Neejanand Resort, where they will be staying until they are taken for the voting, is in Anand district, the stronghold of state president Bharatsinh Solanki.

Police protection was provided after the MLAs wrote to Gujarat assembly Speaker Ramanlal Vora and the Election Commission from Bengaluru seeking security.

“The resort has been given total protection. It has been guarded from within as well as outside at all the entry points. The arrangement has been supervised by a deputy superintendent of police level officer,’’ said Anand SP Saurabh Singh.

The police, however, refused to reveal the details about the security arrangement for the election on Tuesday when they will be taken from the resort to the Vidhan Sabha in Gandhinagar.

They are expected to meet Patel in the evening.

Six of the Congress MLAs, including former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela’s close aides, were not taken to Bengaluru and have not been brought to the resort.

The Congress took the 44 legislators out of Gujarat after six of them resigned before the polls, where in its lone candidate Patel is in the contest against the three BJP candidates including party chief Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and Congress turn coat Balwantsinh Rajput.

Three of them joined the BJP on July 28, prompting the Congress to allege that the ruling party was trying to engineer defections in their ranks.

Though the Congress has claimed it has the support of the 44 MLAs, remaining seven of the party’s 51 legislators, who did not go to Bengaluru, have not made their stand clear.

Congress MP DK Suresh insists the Congress in Gujarat is united.

“All of them (Gujarat Congress MLAs staying in Bengaluru resort) are happy,” said Suresh, adding: “...MLAs want to vote Ahmed Patel and will get back seat of Congress.”

Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil told ANI: “All of us are united, BJP can’t threaten any MLA...horse-trading is not possible...“

He had earlier alleged that the saffron party was spreading “false reports” that the MLAs would use the ‘NOTA’ option in the polls to defeat Patel. The Congress had objected to the ‘NOTA’ option in the Rajya Sabha polls.

Last week, the Supreme Court refused to stay the Election Commission decision allowing the NOTA provision in the polls in Gujarat after the Congress chief whip in the state, Shailesh Manubhai Parmar sought an interim stay on the notification.

But even as the Congress tries to present a confident look ahead of the elections, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel threw a spanner in the works saying his party has not yet decided on supporting any party in the polls.

Patel said the decision would be taken in consultation with NCP president Sharad Pawar. The NCP has two MLAs in the Gujarat assembly - Kandhal Jadeja and Jayant Patel.

(With agency inputs)

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