WITH the Assembly session still 14 days away, the Congress on Friday shifted its MLAs, shepherded by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, to a resort in Jaisalmer — over 560 km west of Jaipur — via chartered flights.
The legislators head there after an 18-day stay at a hotel and resort on the outskirts of Jaipur, where they moved following the revolt by Sachin Pilot and 18 MLAs. Indicating that the Gehlot loyalists would now be in Jaisalmer till the Assembly convenes on August 14 or a floor test, the Congress claimed a “threat” to them and immense “pressure” on their family and relatives.
Talking to journalists outside Jaipur airport, Gehlot said, “The MLAs are getting calls, their family members are getting calls, their contacts are getting calls, threat calls, to pressurise them. The MLAs are mentally troubled… They have been sitting here for long… hence we thought to shift them. There will be less pressure there, and it is far away.”
Accusing “the Government of India and Home Ministry” of being after his government, the CM said “saving the government is important” along with governing the state. “I am forced to say, ‘Amit Shahji, what has happened to you? Day and night, awake and while asleep, you think how to topple a government’. If chosen governments fall like this, what will be left of democracy?” he said.
Gehlot added that he would be going up and down between the state capital and Jaisalmer. “I will be in Jaipur and so will most of my ministers. We will not compromise with governance.”
A senior Congress leader said the legislators had themselves raised the “pressure” they were under at the Congress Legislature Party meeting on Thursday, after which a unanimous decision was taken that all would shift somewhere out of Jaipur.
Sources said the Congress was also worried that the family members dropping in to meet the MLAs at the Jaipur resort might be conveying offers to defect. Few MLAs were allowed visitors, that too immediate family members, but with upcoming festivals such as Eid, Raksha Bandhan and Janmashtmi, Congress expected requests for visits to increase.
On Thursday, Gehlot had said the “rates” of MLAs had increased manifold. “Ever since the Governor declared 14th (August, for the House to convene), the telephones have started ringing. We get news who is calling and what they are offering. They (MLAs) are being asked, ‘Tell us what you want’…” he said.
While the Fairmont Hotel and Resort where the MLAs were staying till Friday is now in the crosshairs of ED, their accommodation in Jaisalmer — Suryagarh Hotel — is 14 km from the city.
Denying Gehlot’s allegations, BJP state president Satish Poonia said, “Who is saleable, disclose their names.” Asking why the Congress was headed for Jaisalmer, he said what was the need for it “if all Congress MLAs are united, there is no danger, everything is fine”.
“After Jaipur and beyond Jaisalmer, there is Pakistan,” Poonia said. “For how long will you run away from reality?”
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