Ahead of the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, the opposition Congress today shifted 17 of its MLAs from a resort in Rajkot to a farmhouse near Gadhada town of Botad district, a party leader said.
Fearing poaching, the Congress had shifted its legislators to various resorts in Gujarat in the one last week, dividing them in zone-wise groups. While some MLAs gathered in Rajkot in Saurashtra, few others were in Abu Road in Rajasthan.
"After meeting local leaders in Gadhada, the MLAs will proceed to Dhari town in Amreli district," Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, who is also among these 17 MLAs from Saurashtra region, said.
Both Gadhada and Dhari Assembly seats are empty at present after Congress's Pravin Maru and JV Kakadiya resigned as legislators soon after the Rajya Sabha polls were announced for the first time in March.
"When people were fighting the coronavirus pandemic, elected representative of Botad deserted its people either due to pressure or for some financial gains. Thus, we have decided to meet the people of this leaderless region and understand their problems. People will not forgive those who had disrespected the mandate," Mr Dhanani told news agency Press Trust of India.
Congress's Tankara MLA Lalit Kagathara said, "Since Dhari legislator, too, had resigned in March, the sitting (Congress) MLAs will also visit that region to make people understand the game and teach a lesson to them (MLAs who have resigned) in the by-election."
"From Botad, the MLAs will go to Dhari as part of our exercise to make people of that area understand how they were betrayed, both by the MLA and the ruling BJP," said Mr Kagathara.
To save its MLAs from "poaching", the party had divided its legislators as per zones and shifted them in different resorts across the state in the last one week, he told news agency PTI.
As per the earlier schedule, election for four Rajya Sabha seats was supposed to be held on March 26. However, it was eventually postponed for an indefinite period in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and subsequent imposition of the nation-wide lockdown.
Till now, eight Congress MLAs have resigned, bringing their strength in the Assembly to 65, a number not enough to win two Rajya Sabha seats on which they the party have fielded its two candidates.
In March, when Rajya Sabha polls were first announced, five opposition MLAs, including Maru and Kakadiya had resigned.
The three more had resigned this month after fresh dates were announced.
The Rajya Sabha election for four seats in Gujarat has now been scheduled on June 19.
While the Congress has fielded Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki, BJP has fielded Abhay Bhardwaj, Ramilaben Bara and Narhari Amin.
In the 182-member Assembly, BJP has 103 MLAs and the opposition Congress now stands at 65. While the Bharatiya Tribal Party has two MLAs, Nationalist Congress Party has one legislator. One MLA, Jignesh Mevani, is Independent, while 10 seats are vacant, two due to court cases and eight others due to the resignations.
The effective strength of the House is 172 at the moment.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)