For some of the 44 Congress MLAs who returned to Gujarat after being lodged for several days in a resort in Bengaluru, Raksha Bandhan brought a bittersweet reunion with their families at Anand’s Neejanand resort. While the sisters of two MLAs arrived at the heavily guarded resort to tie the rakhi thread, several other MLAs had to receive rakhis from their sisters through their aides.
Dhiru Bhil from Sankheda and Ramesh Chavda from Kadi were the two who celebrated the festival with their sisters. Bhil’s sister Renuka, 55, arrived from Naswadi, followed soon by Chavda’s family including his sister. All of them were made to wait at the entrance until Congress workers guarding the entrance had their identities confirmed their identity of their families.
For over an hour, Renuka sat patiently on a plastic chair outside the gate, dressed in a pink saree and carrying a plastic bag with a rakhi and a box of sweets. After a series of messages to verify her identity, Renuka was finally escorted into the resort.
“I have never missed a single year of rakhi,” she said. “This year, since my brother was in another city, I was worried that we might not be able to meet. But last evening he called me and said he would arrange for me to be brought to this resort. I am very happy.”
She was impressed by the tightness of the security. “I always knew my brother is an important person, an MLA, but I did not know there is so much security around him,” she said. “I felt a bit awkward going through all these processes to meet him. Usually, we have a very simple celebration at home, as he makes sure he is with us on Raksha Bandhan.”
Chavda’s sister, who was accompanied by her children, refused to discuss their visit, saying it was a “personal matter”.
Both Renuka and Chavda’s sister, party sources said, were escorted to the restaurant in the resort, which has been booked up by the party. It was here that both MLAs celebrated the festival with their families.
Party leaders said many of the other MLAs were upset at not being able to meet their families. “Raksha Bandhan coincidentally fell just a day before the Rajya Sabha polls, so the decision to bring them here was taken keeping in mind that relatives could arrive,” a leader said. “While some families could not travel to Anand, some sisters sent their rakhis through the MLAs’ aides.”
With many MLAs missing their sisters, the two female MLAs in the group —Degham’s Kaminiba Rathod and Garbhada’s Chandrika Baria — tied rakhis to the 42 men.
“My sister could not visit me because I have decided to stay with the party flock until the problem is resolved,” said an MLA from south Gujarat. “She managed to send her rakhi to me through a member of my staff. I asked one of my female colleagues to tie it on my wrist on behalf of my sister.”
Another MLA, this one from central Gujarat, said, “I told my sister that visiting here would only inconvenience her, with the security arrangements in place. I received her rakhi and so the rituals were completed with the help of members of my staff.”
The MLAs attended an interactive session led by Shaktisinh Gohil. Each of the 44 is under the watch of two Youth Congress workers, sources said. The MLAs will leave for Gandhinagar in the early hours of Tuesday.