Ahmedabad, July 29 (PTI): The Congress has sent 44 of its legislators to a resort outside Bengaluru to fend off "poaching" attempts by the BJP ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, a senior party leader said.
Of the 57 Congress MLAs in the State, from where senior party leader Ahmed Patel is contesting, six resigned from the party in the last two days with three of them joining the BJP yesterday.
"Congress has shifted 44 of its MLAs to Bengaluru," Gujarat Congress general secretary Nishit Vyas, who is with the legislators in Bengaluru, told PTI. "It was for the safety and security of the MLAs who are being threatened if they do not agree to switch sides... that is why we decided to bring them to Bengaluru," he claimed.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani denied the Congress' claims.
"This is the internal problem of Congress as its leader of opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela, its chief whip Balwantsinh Rajput and spokesperson Tajeshriben Patel have quit as they faced difficulties. "They have taken their MLAs to Bangaluru as they do not have faith in their MLAs," he said in Rajkot.
A section of the Congress' legislators claimed that seven MLAs decided against going with them to Bengaluru. The seven include Vaghela, who has already quit the party, and his MLA son Mahendrasinh Vaghela.
Party sources said Bengaluru was chosen as Congress has its government in Karnataka.
The MLAs have been kept at a resort some 50 km from Bengaluru city, Vyas confirmed without divulging more details.
According to Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Bharat Solanki, the BJP is playing "dirty politics". "It is luring our MLAs with money, muscle and state power. In such circumstances, our MLAs decided that we should remain together and so they have gone to Bangaluru," Solanki had told reporters here last night.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has demanded that the Election Commission (EC) lodge a criminal case against the BJP for poaching its MLAs using "money and muscle" power.
The Congress has re-nominated Ahmed Patel, political secretary to party chief Sonia Gandhi, to the Upper House of Parliament from Gujarat.
In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the strength of the Congress has gone down to 51 from 57.
The desertions have cast a shadow on the fate of Patel in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls.
The BJP has fielded party president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and former Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput who joined the BJP on Thursday.
Of the total 11 RS members from the State, the term of three--Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Ahmed Patel--is ending on August 18.