Gujarat: After three resignations, Congress MLAs shifted to resorts
Over concerns that more MLAs will ditch the party before crucial Rajya Sabha elections of June 19, the Congress party in Gujarat shifted most of its legislators to different resorts. The party has 65 MLAs in the 182-seated assembly, while the ruling BJP has 103. Barring a few, most legislators were shifted to resorts in Rajkot, Ambaji, and Anand, Ahmedabad Mirror reported on Monday.
Since March, eight MLAs have dumped Congress, three of them — Akshay Patel, Jitu Chaudhary, and Brijesh Merja — submitting their resignations last week. In a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Merja claimed he wasn't able to serve people. With a deflated strength, the grand old party risks being defeated at the elections for four Rajya Sabha seats. It accused BJP of horse-trading.
Quoting sources, IE reported that two MLAs — one from Central Gujarat and another from Saurashtra — are also on their way out. "We have had discussions with this young MLA from Central Gujarat and although he has communicated his displeasure to the party on previous occasions, the party has assured him of a resolution this time," a senior Congress member said.
The fear of losing more MLAs and coronavirus led Congress to divide MLAs into three groups. The Wild Winds Resort near Ambaji in party-ruled Rajasthan housed MLAs from North Gujarat; MLAs from Saurashtra were taken to Neel's City Resort near Rajkot and those from South and Central Gujarat were sent to Aries Riverside Farmhouse in Umeta. The Rajkot resort is owned by ex-Congress MLA.
Explaining the rationale behind shifting the MLAs to different places, the aforementioned leader told IE, "We do not trust the BJP-run government. They might use the Epidemic Act against the party to suppress us and pressurize our MLAs if we all gather at one place."
Congress' plan to save its MLAs went south on Sunday when the Rajkot Police booked former Congress MLA Indranil Rajyaguru, the owner of Neel's City Resort, for violating coronavirus lockdown. To note, resorts and hotels were permitted to reopen from today but the politician resumed operations early. Manoharsinh Jadeja, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of Zone-II, said the case was registered under IPC Section 188.
"According to notifications of the Central government, such establishments would be allowed to open from June 8. No one has been arrested so far. We shall investigate, summon them, seek their reply, and if warranted, will arrest them," the cop said.
Interestingly, the resort witnessed action too when 18 Congress MLAs staged a dharna there. They demanded waiver of electricity bills, property taxes, and sought directions for private schools. They wanted these institutions to not charge hefty fees from parents. The protest was led by senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia and Congress Legislature Party leader Paresh Dhanani. Members like Hardik Patel participated as well.
Reacting to the case against Rajyaguru, Hardik Patel said BJP was attacking Congress because they raised concerns of poor, farmers, and middle-class. He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, both of whom started their political careers in Gujarat, are scared that if BJP leaves CMO their "old files" will surface. Patel also equated Centre with a "mad elephant".