As the countdown to the Rajya Sabha elections to four seats in Gujarat begins, Congress MLAs have started meeting party workers in the seats vacated by their MLAs who quit in favour of the BJP.
The group of 19 Congress MLAs and other senior party leaders who were camping in a resort in Rajkot city moved out on Wednesday and held a meeting with party workers and leaders in Gadhada, the Assembly constituency from where party MLA Pravin Maru resigned three months ago.
The MLAs from Saurashtra and Kutch regions, led by senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia and Congress legislature party leader Paresh Dhanani, checked out of Neel’s City Resort in Rajkot Wednesday and drove to Gadhada town in Botad district where they held a meeting with local party leaders and workers at Krishna Farmhouse of late Congress leader, Bharat Chhaiya. Hardik Patel was among the leaders who attended the two-hour meeting.
Former CLP leader Modhw-adia termed it a protest, saying, “We held protest against Pravin Maru. It was a silent protest as we cannot organise any public event due to restrictions due to novel coronavirus outbreak. We held meeting with our local leaders and party workers and expressed solidarity with them. We conveyed to them that the party leadership of the state is on the same page as they are… not a single person is in support of Maru now.” Modhwadia was also president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) earlier.
Congress MLA Pravin Maru resigned as an MLA early in March after Rajya Sabha elections in the state were announced. He was part of five Congress MLAs who quit as legislators in March and were subsequently suspended from the party.
While Congress has fielded its national spokesperson Shakitsinh Gohil and former GPCC president and Union Minister Bharatsinh Solanki, the BJP has given tickets to Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramila Bara and Narhari Amin. Following coronavirus outbreak, the election was postponed. However, on June 2, the Election Commission announced that polling of the four seats will be held on June 19.
On June 3, Congress MLAs Akshay Patel and Jitu Chaudhary had resigned from party and as legislators also. They were followed by Brijesh Merja, the Congress MLA from Morbi on Friday. After three resignations in three days, Congress herded its MLAs from Saurashtra and Kutch to the Rajkot resort in an attempt to keep its flock together even as the Opposition party blamed the ruling BJP for engineering “defections” of its MLAs.
“On Thursday, we shall go to Dhari and protest against JV Kakadiya, our MLA who resigned,” Modhwadia said.
Kakadiya also resigned as MLA in March with his wife Kokila alleging that Bharatsinh Solanki prompted the move.
Maru on Wednesday said that he has support of people of Gadhada and repeated his allegation that the party was promoting those who were working against the party. “…People are still with me… I repeat that Congress promotes those who are actually working against interests of the party. There is serious problem of discipline in that party. Starting from Delhi to Gujarat, there is no one to take responsibility,” said Maru, adding he had not decided yet about joining the BJP.
Meanwhile, 10 tribal MLAs of Congress from Central and South Gujarat will campaign on the two vacant seats of Kaprada in Valsad district and Dang. Congress MLA from Vansda seat, Anant Patel, also accused the BJP of trying to lure him to defect.
With 65 MLAs left, the party is short of four votes to ensure win of both of its candidates, even as the BJP is trying to win back all three of the four vacant seats.
On Tuesday evening, Congress MLA Punaji Gamit (Vyara seat), Sunil Gamit, (Nizar seat), Anand Chaudhary (Mandvi seat), Anant Chaudhary (Vansda seat) and PD Vasava (Nandol seat), accompanied by former Union minister Dr Tushar Chaudhary and state core committee member Gaurav Pandya, gathered at the latter’s farm house in Pardi taluka of Valsad district and met mediapersons.
Anant Patel said, “Few days ago, a group of BJP leaders came to my home and tried to lure me with crores of rupees. They also offered me plum posts in the BJP but I turned it down. The BJP has been using all tricks to lure Congress MLAs for the victory of their candidates. But if we stay united, we can give them an appropriate answer. All the five tribal MLA have come here in the farm house, so that they can stay here without fear.”
On Wednesday afternoon, five more tribal Congress MLAs from different seats in Central Gujarat — Mohansinh Rathwa (Chhota Udaipur seat), Sukhram Rathwa (Pali Jetpur seat), Bhavesh Kataria (Jhalod seat), Chandrikaben Baraiya (Garbada seat in Dahod) and Vajesingh Panada (Dahod seat) — arrived in the farm house.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pandya said, “We are keeping these MLAs safe at our farm house, maintaining Covid-19 protocol, because the BJP is using all tactics to lure and create pressure on them ahead of the Rajya sabha elections. If the MLAs stay together, nobody would dare to contact them. United we stand, divided we fall.”
He added, “From Thursday morning, we will start campaigning on the two vacant seats of Dangs and Kaprada. Due to the resignation of Jitubhai Chaudhary and Mangal Gavit, the party workers in both these seats are demotivated… The tribals on both these seats are committed to the Congress party… they will definitely vote the party to power in both the seats in the coming assembly by-elections.”
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