In a major blow to the opposition Congress ahead of the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls for four seats from the state, two party MLAs have resigned as members of the Legislative Assembly.
The Congress has accused the BJP of trying to break the opposition party to win the Rajya Sabha polls. However, the ruling BJP dismissed the charge, saying MLAs were leaving the Congress as they were "unhappy" with the party leadership.
Gujarat Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi said Congress MLAs Akshay Patel and Jitu Chaudhary met him on Wednesday evening and handed over their resignations. "I have accepted their resignations. They now cease to be the legislators," Trivedi told reporters in Gandhinagar on Thursday.
Patel represented Karjan seat of Vadodara while Chaudhary won from Kaprada seat of Valsad.
Since March, seven Congress MLAs have so far resigned, including Patel and Chaudhary. In the 182-member state Assembly, the ruling BJP has 103 MLAs and the opposition Congress now has 66 legislators.
Of the four Rajya Sabha seats from the state set to go for polls on June 19, three are currently held by the BJP and one by the Congress. While the Congress has fielded two candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls, the BJP has fielded three, making it difficult for the opposition party to win a second seat.
The BJP has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramilaben Bara and Narhari Amin, and the Congress has announced names of senior leaders Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki for the polls.
Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani accused the BJP of breaking the Congress to win the Rajya Sabha polls. "The BJP has opened its shop to buy Congress MLAs from the money amassed through corrupt means. The BJP is using the state machinery and money power to win elections," he alleged.
However, BJP's Narhari Amin refuted the allegations. "I believe that some more Congress MLAs would also resign in near future. They are leaving Congress because they are unhappy with the party leadership," Amin said.
The Rajya Sabha elections for four seats from Gujarat are scheduled to be held on June 19. Earlier, the elections were supposed to be held on March 26. However, the polls were then postponed for an indefinite period in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent imposition of the lockdown.
In March, five Congress legislators had tendered their resignations, days after the Rajya Sabha polls were announced. With two more legislators now quitting the Congress, its chances of winning the second seat are slim.
In the 182-member Assembly, BJP has 103 MLAs, Congress-66, Bharatiya Tribal Party-two and NCP-one. One seat is held by an Independent, Jignesh Mevani, while nine seats are vacant - two due to court cases over poll-related disputes and seven due to resignation of MLAs.