Poaching fear stalks Congress, 44 Gujarat MLAs taken to resort near Bengaluru
Congress flew most of its Gujarat MLAs out of the state in a midnight flight to Bengaluru on Friday, an apparent attempt to keep the flock together after a string of resignations rocked the party.india Updated: Jul 29, 2017 13:59 IST
Forty-four Congress MLAs from Gujarat have been lodged at a private resort near Bengaluru after they landed from Ahmedabad on Saturday morning, a party official said.
The Congress, which has been jolted by the exit of six of its legislators in 24 hours, brought the MLAs to the capital of Karnataka --- ruled by the Congress -- even as it accused BJP president Amit Shah of engineering defections in Gujarat by “money and muscle power”.
“All our Gujarat MLAs have been put up at the Eagleton Golf Resort in Bidadi on the Mysuru road after they flew into the city in two batches from Ahmedabad via Mumbai,” a state unit official of the party told IANS on anonymity.
The resort is located in the Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency, represented by Congress lawmaker DK Suresh, the younger brother of Karnataka power minister DK Shivakumar.
“Our party’s high command in Delhi directed us on Friday night to look after them during their stay in the state,” the official said.
The lawmakers were shifted, ostensibly to prevent rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from poaching them ahead of the Rajya Sabha poll in Gujarat on August 8. Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is contesting for a fifth term in the election.
“We don’t have details on their programme and how long they will stay here. We have been told to take care of them,” added the official.
Jolted by the exit of six of its lawmakers since Thursday, the party decided to shift 44 of its remaining 51 MLAs in the 182-set Gujarat assembly to the city and prevent them from defecting to the BJP, the ruling party in the western state.
One more Congress MLA, CK Raolji was on his way to resign, but turned back midway “for final negotiations” with the BJP, a close confidante of Raolji told IANS.
AICC media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala rushed here from New Delhi. The issue also rocked the Rajya Sabha, which witnessed repeated adjournments as angry Congress members accused the BJP of “stealing” party lawmakers.
“What they did in Goa, Manipur and in Bihar, they are trying to do the same in Gujarat. Our legislators are being threatened or offered money. People like an IPS officer who was behind bars for 8-9 years in a fake encounter case are being used to kidnap our MLAs, offer money or threaten our legislators.
“There is insecurity and environment of terror. So our legislators are being moved to safety,” Arjun Modhvadia, senior Congress leader, told reporters at Ahmedabad airport before leaving on Friday night.
Patel, political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi, filed his nomination in Ahmedabad on July 26. He needs 47 preference voters in the first round for re-election.