Setback for Congress ahead of RS polls as two Gujarat MLAs resign
The resignations prompted the Congress to divide its remaining legislators into seven groups and rush them to different places in the state to prevent further desertions until the polling is held, party functionaries aware of the matter said.
Two Congress lawmakers have resigned from the Gujarat assembly and brought down the party’s tally in the 182-member House to 66 ahead of the June 19 elections to four Rajya Sabha seats from the state.
The resignations prompted the Congress to divide its remaining legislators into seven groups and rush them to different places in the state to prevent further desertions until the polling is held, party functionaries aware of the matter said. The Gujarat seats are going to the polls along with 20 others across the country.
A party needs 35 first preference votes to win a seat as the strength of the Gujarat assembly is now 173. Five Congress legislators earlier resigned from the assembly in March. Two more seats remain vacant in the state assembly because of litigation due to poll-related disputes.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with 103 seats needs two more votes to win three of the four Rajya Sabha seats.
The Congress is banking on Bharatiya Tribal Party’s two, the lone legislator of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and independent lawmaker Jignesh Mevani to win two seats. The BJP has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramilaben Bara, and Narhari Amin. Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki are the Congress’s candidates.
Gujarat assembly speaker Rajendra Trivedi said Congress legislators Akshay Patel and Jitu Chaudhary met him on Wednesday evening to handover their resignations. “I have accepted their resignations. They now cease to be the legislators,” he said on Thursday.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel accused the BJP of horse-trading amid the Covid-19 crisis. “Isn’t Gujarat government the only one in the world where: 1) Government has abandoned people in the middle of a global pandemic? 2) Refused to fund train fare for poor migrants? 3) But leaves no stone unturned to fund horse-trading activities for a Rajya Sabha election?” he tweeted.
Paresh Dhanani, the opposition leader in the Gujarat assembly, also accused the BJP of breaking the Congress to win the Rajya Sabha polls. “The BJP has opened its shop to buy Congress legislators from the money amassed through corrupt means. The BJP is using the state machinery and money power to win elections,” he said.
The BJP rejected the allegations, saying Congress legislators were leaving the party as they were “unhappy” with its leadership. “I believe that some more Congress legislators would also resign in the near future. They are leaving Congress because they are unhappy with the party leadership,” Amin said.
Congress legislators Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zala cross-voted in favour of the BJP when it fielded external affairs minister S Jaishankar and Jugal Thakor for Rajya Sabha in July last year. The two seats were left vacant after Union ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were elected to Parliament’s lower House, or Lok Sabha.
Ahmed Patel managed to get re-elected to the Rajya Sabha for the fifth time in August 2017 after a keenly contested election.
The Rajya Sabha elections were earlier scheduled to be held on March 26, but were deferred due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent imposition of the nationwide lockdown to check its spread from March 25.
The NCP has separately removed its Gujarat chief Shankersinh Vaghela and appointed Jayant Patel in his place.