Ahmedabad: Fearing cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha by-elections in Gujarat on Friday, the Congress has decided to move its 65 MLAs to Mount Abu in Rajasthan where they are expected to stay for the next 24 hours.
The party termed the move as “precautionary” and a result of "thwarting BJP's attempt of luring the MLAs for cross-voting."
“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,” Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Manish Doshi was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who is in-charge of the by-polls, held discussions with Gujarat Congress in-charge Rajeev Satav after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi. In the meeting, the decision to ferry MLAs to a separate state was taken.
However, MLA Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zala have dissented against the party and are not expected to vote in the party’s favour. On Tuesday Gujarat High Court also turned down a plea by Congress seeking Thakor’s disqualification after he announced his resignation from all party posts.
Admitting that Thakor and Zala have turned rebels, Doshi said that three more MLAs -- Imran Khedawala, Shailesh Parmar and Himmatsinh Patel -- will not be joining the rest in Mount Abu due to the Jagannath Yatra procession that will pass through their constituencies in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Local arrangements have been made for the stay of the MLAs’ stay in Rajasthan. Doshi added.
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.
Ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat in 2017, Congress had shifted 44 of its MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru in an attempt to thwart a possible "poaching" attempt by the saffron party.
The Supreme Court had recently refused to entertain the Congress’s plea to conduct elections in both seats as one, something which reduces chances of the Congress winning any seat.