Nineteen Congress legislators from Gujarat have been shifted to a resort in Rajasthan ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in the state. Three MLAs of the party have resigned and there is apprehension that others may follow.
Congress sources said the party is eventually expected to move 26 MLAs to the resort, Wild Winds, located in Rajasthan's Mount Abu. Rajasthan is ruled by the Congress and party leaders have expressed hopes that the MLAs would safe from BJP interference there.
The Congress has 65 MLAs in Gujarat, some of whom have already been packed off to different resorts. A group of MLAs from Saurashtra have been lodged at a resort in Rajkot called Neel City. Another group is at a a resort near Anand in Gujarat.
The BJP has 103 members in the 182-member state assembly, where a candidate needs 34 votes to win.
The party decided to take action after two of its MLAs resigned on June 4. A third resigned a day later.
The spate of resignations was in fact, the second. The first wave was in March, days after the Rajya Sabha polls were announced. Four MLAs had resigned at the time.
With its current strength, the Congress can only be assured of a single seat instead of two, which it could have commanded earlier.
Of the four Rajya Sabha seats up for election in Gujarat, the BJP has three and the Congress, one. The BJP has fielded Narhari Amin, Abhay Bhardwaj and Ramilaben Bara.
The Congress has named Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki for the polls and now has to decide who will be its first preference candidate as that person is likely to win.
To complicate matters, Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party is not sure whether its lone MLA in the state will support ally Congress. "NCP has issued a whip for its MLA to vote for the Congress. It is a different matter whether he will vote as directed," senior NCP leader Praful Patel has told NDTV.
The Congress has alleged that the BJP is trying to engineer defections through bribery.
Taking a dig at the Centre's "Atma-Nirbhar Bharat" campaign, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said "This is self-reliance of the BJP with the help of money power".
"This is a virus which is there in BJP's DNA. It is spreading this virus everywhere by luring MLAs all over. But people are understanding this now," he told reporters when asked about its MLAs switching sides ahead of the Rajya Sabha election.