Rattled over its six MLAs submitting their resignations ahead of upcoming Rajya Sabha elections on August 8, with one more likely to leave soon, the Gujarat Congress flew off over 40 of its remaining MLAs to Bengaluru in party-ruled Karnataka on Friday night.
"All our Gujarat MLAs have been put up at the Eagleton Golf Resort in Bidadi on the Mysuru road after they flew into the city in two batches from Ahmedabad via Mumbai," the party's state unit's official told IANS on anonymity.
The Times of India quoted Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar as saying, "To ensure BJP is not successful, 44 of us (Congress MLAs) are leaving from Gujarat for Bengaluru."
The lawmakers were shifted, ostensibly to prevent its rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from poaching them ahead of the Rajya Sabha poll in Gujarat on August 8 in which its senior leader Ahmed Patel is contesting for a fifth term.
As the Congress herded its legislators into a commercial flight at Ahmedabad airport close to midnight yesterday, senior Gujarat Congress leader Naresh Rawal told NDTV that the party had been forced to fly them out because the BJP "government in Gujarat is harassing them and forcing them to cross over".
After six of its MLAs quit the party ahead of the crucial 8 August Rajya Sabha polls, the Congress leadership decided to "shift" its MLAs in Gujarat to Bengaluru to guard them from being "poached" by the BJP .
"Looking at the current situation (in Gujarat), where attempts are being made to lure our members, we are taking 46 of our MLAs to Bengaluru," said a senior party leader told PTI, requesting anonymity.
They are expected to be in Bengaluru for at least a week with Gujarat Congress unit president Bharatsinh Solanki. These MLAs are staying at Eagleton The Golf Resort, which is about 22 kilometres from Ramanagara.
Senior Congress leader Naresh Rawal told NDTV the party had been forced to fly out the legislators "since the Gujarat government was harassing them and forcing them to cross over."
In a major setback for the Opposition party in Gujarat, three more of its MLAs resigned on Friday, taking the number of legislators who quit the party ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls to six. Mansingh Chouhan, Chhanabhai Chaudhary and Ramsinh Parmar handed over their resignation to the Assembly Speaker Ramanlal Vora.
For the third seat, to challenge Ahmed Patel, the BJP has fielded Balwantsinh Rajput, a senior leader and Vagehla's close relative who quit the Congress and immediately joined the BJP this week.
By quitting the assembly, the Vaghela loyalists have reduced the strength of the house, which means that while Ahmed Patel will need fewer votes to win (currently 45), so will Rajput, who is already assured of 31 of the BJPs extra votes.
On Friday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanded that the Election Commission lodged a criminal case against the BJP for "poaching" its MLAs using "money and muscle" power, a charge denied by the saffron party.
The issue also rocked the Rajya Sabha, which witnessed repeated adjournments as angry Congress members accused the BJP of "stealing” party lawmakers.
The Congress accused the BJP government in Gujarat and at the Centre of pressurising Congress legislators to quit the party and join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).