Forty-four Congress MLAs from Gujarat, who were flown to Karnataka to prevent “poaching” by the BJP ahead of Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha elections, were ferried back to the state on Monday. However, they were again whisked away to another resort ahead of the Rajya Sabha election on Tuesday.
The MLAs were received by state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki and party’s chief whip Shailesh Parmar at the domestic terminal of the Sardar Patel International Airport and later taken to a resort near Borsad in Anand district amid a huge security bandobast.
According to reports, the resort, named Neejanand, is owned by NRI Mahendra Patel and is located in Vanskhedia village, five km from Anand town. Vanskhedia is the native village of Anand district Congress president Kantibhai Sodha. “A majority of the villagers here are Congress supporters and, hence, it is quite safe for the MLAs,” party sources were quoted saying.
The MLAs had been lodged in a private resort near Bengaluru on July 29 following the resignation of six Congress legislators. Of the 57 party legislators in the 182-member Gujarat assembly, the six quit the party on 26 July and three of them joined the BJP on 28 July. Seven of the remaining 51 MLAs, did not join those who came to Bengaluru.
Families of the lawmakers are allowed to visit them at the resort for the Raksha Bandhan festival on Monday. On Tuesday, the legislators will directly go to state capital Gandhinagar to vote for the party’s Rajya Sabha nominee Ahmed Patel.
Patel, the political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, is seeking a fifth consecutive term. “We are confident of victory. All MLAs are with us,” Patel said.
Karnataka Minister D.K. Shivakumar was at the airport when the Congress legislators took a budget carrier after a week-long stay at a private resort near Bengaluru.
“As all of us are united. The BJP cannot threaten any of our MLAs. Horse trading is not possible with those who are with us,” party’s lawmaker Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters outside the airport before leaving for Ahmedabad.
The Congress claims to have the support of the requisite 45 MLAs needed to send Patel to the Rajya Sabha. “We have the numbers. BJP doesn’t have the numbers,” Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil added.
During the legislators’ stay at the Eagleton Golf Resort at Bidadi, about 40 km from Bengaluru, the Income Tax Department raided a deluxe suite where Shivakumar was staying as their host, in connection with the alleged tax evasion and amassing of wealth or assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The officials did not raid the Gujarat MLAs but whisked away Shivakumar to his bungalow in the city for questioning him following the seizure of documents, cash, jewellery and property records made in his house.
Searches and seizures were also conducted at the Energy Minister's house at Kanakapura and his rented apartment in New Delhi, at the residences of his brother D.K. Suresh at Ramanagara in the adjacent Bengaluru Rural district, and his relatives and friends at Mysuru and Hassan in the state till 6 August
Earlier, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had accused the BJP in the state of horse-trading ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections.
The BJP has fielded Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani for the two seats it will win with ease. For the third, it has fielded Balwantsinh Rajput to take on Ahmed Patel.