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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Resort for Rajya Sabha: 6 Rajasthan MLAs miss check-in deadline, Congress says not sweating yet

With a week to go for the polls, the Congress is facing some hard bargaining if it wants these MLAs to join the rest at the Udaipur resort. The party had earlier given a deadline of Friday evening for the legislators to reach the resort, and most have made their way there.

Written by Hamza Khan | Jaipur |
Updated: June 4, 2022 11:23:50 am
Ashok Gehlot cabinet in 2021. (Photo: Facebook/Rajendra Singh Gudha)

At least six MLAs, including a minister, are keeping away as the Congress herds its Rajasthan legislators into a resort ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in the state.

With a week to go for the polls, the Congress is facing some hard bargaining if it wants these MLAs to join the rest at the Udaipur resort. The party had earlier given a deadline of Friday evening for the legislators to reach the resort, and most have made their way there.

On Friday, Rajasthan Minister of State for Sainik Kalyan Rajendra Gudha – among the six not in Udaipur – attacked Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, saying that the CM talks a lot but it would be better if he sat down and “worried” instead.

Talking to journalists in Jaipur, Gudha, known to be outspoken, said, “Gehlot saheb bolte bahut hain, bolte toh hain he, ke ye kiya, media mein bolte hain. Kabhi baith ke chinta karte toh zyada theek hota (Gehlot sahib talks a lot, he does talk a lot, that he has done this, he says so in the media. But it would have been better had he sat down and worried).”

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Gudha was part of the group of six BSP MLAs who merged with the Congress in 2019, a year after the Assembly poll results, leaving the BSP with zero MLAs in the House.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with Congress candidates for Rajya Sabha elections; AICC General Secretaries Randeep Surjewala & Mukul Wasnik, and party leader Pramod Tiwari. Rajasthan Congress President Govind Singh Dotasra and party leader Sachin Pilot are also seen. (PTI Photo)

Apart from the portfolio of Sainik Kalyan (Independent Charge), Gudha holds the departments of Home Guard and Civil Defence (Independent Charge), and Panchayati Raj and Rural Development. Talking about some other MLAs formerly with the BSP, he said, “It is true that they haven’t been given the respect they deserved.”

Wajib Ali, also with the BSP earlier and now the Congress MLA from Nagar in Bharatpur, said his grouse was the bureaucracy. Also not in Udaipur yet, Ali said: “Due to shortcomings of the bureaucracy, public welfare schemes aren’t implemented well. There were a lot of complaints regarding the Public Works Department and illegal mining and I myself wrote to the CM many times, but we don’t know what happened to them.”

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Apart from Gudha and Ali, two other BSP-turned-Congress leaders are yet to reach Udaipur – Lakhan Singh (Karauli MLA) and Sandeep Kumar (Tijara, Alwar). Also sulking are Girraj Singh (Bari, Dholpur) and Khiladi Lal Bairwa (Baseri, Dholpur).

Congress MLAs board a bus and head to Udaipur ahead of the Rajya Sabha Elections, in Jaipur, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (PTI)

The latest development, incidentally, coincides with a letter written by the BSP to Governor Kalraj Mishra and Assembly Speaker C P Joshi, seeking that the “six BSP MLAs” be barred from voting in the Rajya Sabha polls since a case regarding the merger declared by them with the Congress is still pending with the Supreme Court. “We request you to stop them from voting in the Rajya Sabha polls since the BSP has decided not to support any party or Independent,” BSP state president Bhagwan Singh Baba wrote.

The former BSP MLAs have often accused Gehlot of overlooking them. While Gudha was appointed the minister in November last year to placate him, Lakhan Singh Meena, Joginder Awana and Deepchand Khairiya were given political appointments this February.

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The MLAs, who are expected to still vote for the Congress candidates, are hoping the pressure tactic might result in the Gehlot government acceding to some of their demands. Sources said should these demands be met, they may even join others at the Udaipur resort.

Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi said, “They are with the Congress and are Congress MLAs. They have not said anything against the party or the government, or that they will not vote for the Congress candidates… We already have the numbers and all of us are together, but the BJP is trying to create confusion as it only has 71 MLAs.”

As things stand, the Congress and BJP can easily elect two and one Rajya Sabha MP, respectively, with 41 votes required for each candidate. For an additional seat, they need to obtain votes of MLAs outside their party. Currently, the Congress has 108 MLAs, and to elect three MPs, it needs 15 more votes. The BJP has 71 MLAs and to elect a second MP, it needs 11 more MLAs.

The Congress claims it enjoys the support of 18 others – 13 Independents, one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and two each from the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and the CPI. The BTP though has not officially vowed support and has said it will take a final call on June 9. Support of some Independent MLAs also seems to be doubtful.

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First published on: 03-06-2022 at 08:13:10 pm

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