Ahead of the bye-elections for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat on Friday, the Congress will be moving its 65 MLAs to Mount Abu in Rajasthan where they are expected to stay till the next 24 hours, purportedly to avoid cross-voting. The party had termed the move as “precautionary” to avoid attempts of horse trading by the BJP.
Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson told the Indian Express, “We will shift to Mount Abu by 4 pm today and are taking this precautionary step due to the pressure tactics of the BJP. Out of the 71 MLAs we have, 65 will stay in Mt Abu.”
Among the rest six MLAs, Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zala have dissented against the party and are not expected to vote in its favour. On Tuesday, the Gujarat High Court also turned down a Congress plea seeking Alpesh Thakor’s disqualification after he announced his resignation from all party posts.
“We are aware of MLA Alpesh Thakor and MLA Dhavalsinh Zala, who have turned rebel. The remaining three MLAs Himmatsinh Patel, Imran Khedawala and Shailesh Parmar will not be able to join us since the upcoming Lord Jagannath Yatra procession will go through their constituencies in Ahmedabad on Thursday and they are needed there,” Doshi said.
When asked if the Congress MLAs will be staying in a hotel or a resort in Mount Abu, Doshi denied, saying, “We have our own state government in Rajasthan and we have made local arrangements for our MLAs to stay over there.”
The BJP has fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and party’s OBC leader Jugal Thakor as its two candidates for the bye-elections while Congress has fielded former MLA Chandrika Chudasama and party’s leader from Valsad, Gaurav Pandya. The Rajya Sabha seats fell vacant after former members Amit Shah and Smriti Irani won their respective Lok Sabha constituencies of Gandhinagar and Amethi in the recently held general elections.
Recently, the Supreme court had refused to entertain the Congress’ plea to conduct elections to both seats as one election, something which reduces chances of the Congress winning any seat.
In 2017, the Congress had herded 44 of its MLAs first to a resort in Anand and then to Bengaluru to ensure veteran leader Ahmed Patel’s return to the Rajya Sabha. Patel faced a stiff contest from BJP leader Balwantsinh Rajput, who had switched over from Congress to the BJP along with other Congress MLAs just ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections that year. The trial on Rajput’s petition challenging Patel’s election is currently on in the Gujarat High Court.