The Congress accused the BJP of threatening and trying to “buy” Congress MLAs in Gujarat ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha election.
The Congress legislators from Gujarat staying at a resort outside Bengaluru are willing to return home if state chief minister Vijay Rupani promises their safety, party spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said on Sunday.
The party shepherded 44 lawmakers on Friday night to the holiday retreat in Karnakata after a spate of resignation of its MLAs amid allegations that the ruling BJP in Gujarat were bribing and coercing them ahead of the August 8 vice-presidential election.
“We have been threatened, offered money to defect and some have done so,” Gohil, the Congress MLA for Abdasa in the Kutch region, told reporters.
The BJP denied the charges and criticised the Congress legislators for leaving the state when it was reeling under floods. Chief minister Rupani visited flood-affected districts in northern Gujarat during the day.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar said in New Delhi that the opposition lawmakers were having fun at a resort when their BJP counterparts were busy providing relief to the flood-hit people.
“Gujarat Congress leaders are making allegations against the BJP in Bengaluru. It is like a thief attacking a cop. If their leaders are leaving them, it has nothing to do with us,” he said.
The Congress responded that its MLAs have not abandoned their constituencies, but were compelled by the BJP to move out.
“There is an attempt by the BJP to steal our legislators. But we will fight to save democracy,” Govil said.
Dhirubhai Chunilalbhai Bhil, a five-time legislator, alleged that as much as Rs 20 crore was offered to defect. “But I am proud to say that none of the tribal leaders have fallen for this gimmick.”
Rejecting the Congress’s charge, the BJP countered tongue and cheek whether the rival lawmakers were “purchasable”.
The Congress took the MLAs to the southern state, which it rules, after six of its 57 lawmakers in the Gujarat assembly resigned on Friday and Saturday.
The defectors are believed to be close to former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, who quit the Congress on June 21, his 77th birthday, alleging that some party leaders were conspiring against him.
The defections reduced the party’s strength in the assembly to 51, but its vice-presidential nominee Ahmed Patel still has the numbers to sail through.
Patel, the political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, will need the votes of 45 lawmakers. The party hopes two Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) lawmakers will vote for him. Besides, rebel BJP lawmaker Nalin Kotadiya could switch sides.
“We have the support of a legislator from Janata Dal (United) and two from the NCP,” Gohil said.