RS bypolls: Gujarat Congress MLAs shift to Mount Abu

Fearing cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha bypolls for two seats, the Gujarat Congress took its MLAs to a resort in Mount Abu in neighbouring Rajasthan. The party said that it will be going to Abu on Wednesday evening and will return hours before the scheduled polls in order to "thwart BJP's attempt of luring the MLAs for cross-voting."

"In 2017, the BJP tried its best to break out MLAs and to some extent they were successful in doing so. That's why we had to take MLAs to Bengaluru at that time. The situation is same this time also as our MLAs are being lured by the BJP and that's why we are taking out MLAs to Mount Abu for two days. We are going to Abu since our party is ruling Rajasthan," said state Congress's chief spokesperson Manish Doshi.

Doshi also claimed that "The gathering of MLAs in Abu is also going to be used as a shivir (camp) where party will discuss the future course of action." This seems like a repeat of August 2017 Rajya Sabha polls when the party had flown to Bengaluru with its 44 MLAs. This trick had worked and senior party leader Ahmed Patel emerged victorious in dramatic turn of events.

A BJP leader said that "By any means Congress is not in a position to win even one seat so there is no truth about BJP's involvement. They are taking their MLAs out of state since there is a lot an internal conflict which might come out in public before the polls. This exercise is nothing but an attempt of damage control." Hours later, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani mocked at the Congress's move and said that "The party doesn't trust its own MLAs." Rupani claimed that BJP will both the seats as it has 100 MLAs.

The bypolls for two Rajya Sabha seats will be held on July 5. These seats were vacated after BJP leaders Amit Shah and Smriti Irani, who are sitting Rajya Sabha members, won Lok Sabha seats. The BJP has fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and state secretary of BJP's Other Backward Caste (OBC) Cell Jugalji Thakor while the Congress has nominated little known faces including Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya.

The BJP is looking at winning both the seats given its strength in the 182-member Assembly. The BJP has 100 MLAs while the Congress has 71 MLAs at present but it is not counting on three MLAs including rebel OBC leader Alpesh Thakor. The Congress has little chance of winning a seat as Election Commission has decided to hold the votes separately. The party had objected to it and went to Supreme Court for holding the polls simultaneously but the plea was rejected.

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