The Gujarat Congress decided to shift its MLAs to a resort in Banaskantha, instead of one in Mt Abu. Earlier in the day, in a surprising move the party decided to shift its 65 MLAs to Mount Abu, ahead of the all-important Gujarat Rajya Sabha by-polls, which will be held on Friday, 5 July in Gandhinagar.
However, now 69 of the party’s 71 MLAs will head to Balaram Palace Resort, in Banaskantha district of North Gujarat.
Gujarat: 69 Congress MLAs to stay in Balaram Palace Resort, Banaskantha. Earlier, they were going to Mount Abu, but now they will have the one day 'shivir' at Balaram Palace resort. (file pic) pic.twitter.com/486SnudExC— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2019
Party spokesperson Manish Doshi said the Congress’s tactics shifted the local media’s spotlight from Amit Shah’s first visit to Ahmedabad after taking over the Union Home Minister’s portfolio.
"“Mt Abu is a vacationing spot and we didn’t want attract negative press by taking our MLAs to a place where Gujaratis go for small holidays. Besides, today Amit Shah was in Ahmedabad to unveil a flyover on Ashram Road, which meant full media attention as he is visiting the city for the first time as home minister. However, the movement of our MLAs kept the media busy.”" - Manish Doshi, Spokesperson, Gujarat Congress
Doshi said the MLAs visited Ambaji temple in Banaskantha district before they headed to the resort.
Earier in the day, Gujarat Congress MLA Ashwin Kotwal told the press, “Gujarat Congress MLAs had requested for a 'shivir' (team-building camp) during the mini-vacation of the assembly session. So, we're holding a one-day 'shivir' for which all of us are going to Mount Abu.”
Gujarat Congress MLA Ashwin Kotwal: Gujarat Congress MLAs had requested for a 'shivir' during mini-vacation of the assembly session. So we're holding a one-day 'shivir' for which all of us are going to Mount Abu. pic.twitter.com/IGXCqiHFGu— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2019
The by-polls were necessitated after sitting BJP Rajya Sabha MPs from Gujarat, Amit Shah and Smriti Irani, resigned after their election to the Lok Sabha in May 2019 from Gandhinagar and Amethi, respectively. The main contenders for these seats are the BJP and Congress.
The Congress in 2017 had employed similar tactics when it had moved its 44 MLAs to a resort in Anand first and then to Bengaluru to ensure that senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel gets elected to the Rajya Sabha.
The Maths Behind the By-Polls
According to election officials, three MLAs will not be able to cast their vote in the bypolls as they were disqualified for various reasons in the recent past. Apart from that, four seats are lying vacant after their sitting MLAs resigned on getting elected to the Lok Sabha.
Of the total 182 MLAs, 175 are qualified to exercise their franchise. The BJP's strength stands at 100, followed by 71 MLAs of the Congress. Since elections will be held separately, a candidate needs to garner a simple 50 percent vote to win. In the present scenario, each candidate needs 88 votes to secure victory.
While the BJP has fielded External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and OBC leader Juglaji Thakor, the Congress has nominated Chandrika Chudasama and Gaurav Pandya for the bypolls for which MLAs constitute the electoral college.
Precaution Against Cross Voting
The Congress has 71 MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly, but are only moving 65 to Banaskantha. Those excluded by the party includes rebels Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zhala who are expected to vote against the Congress candidates.
Alpesh Thakor told ANI, “I haven't received the whip yet, I will go and vote if I receive a whip.”
Alpesh Thakor, Rebel Congress MLA from Radhanpur (Gujarat) on reports that Gujarat Congress has issued a whip to its MLAs ahead of Rajya Sabha elections: I haven't received the whip yet, I will go and vote if I receive a whip. pic.twitter.com/zYpQszImfN— ANI (@ANI) July 3, 2019
The Quint spoke to Gujarat Congress Spokesperson, Manish Doshi who said moving MLAs is not only a precautionary measure but also a team building exercise.
"“In the last couple of days local news media is speculating about who will cross vote from our party during the Rajya Sabha by-poll. So the party decided to move our MLAs out of Ahmedabad so that they are not pressurised by external factors or the ruling party. ”" - Manish Doshi, Gujarat Congress Spokesperson
He further said that a few of the MLAs including Alpesh and Dhavalsinh will not be joining the rest, “They will cross vote against us, so there is no point in taking them along. “
BJP Criticises Congress’ ‘Mini Vacation’
In a video statement uploaded on YouTube, BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya, lampooned the Congress and said that the party seems to be in vacation mode all the time.
"“There is no clarity on what the Congress is expressing at the moment. Some party leaders say they want to protect democracy, some say they want to protect the party, while others say it is mini vacation. They even go to the extent of saying that the BJP wants to destroy the party. This excursion to Mt Abu clearly shows that the party has no faith in its own MLAs.”" - Bharat Pandya, Gujarat BJP Spokesperson
He further added that the Congress is a sinking ship that takes decisions that goes against the nation, only to eventually blame the BJP for its losses.
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