Congress on Sunday paraded its Gujarat MLAs before the media in Bengaluru in an effort to quell speculation of dissension in the party ranks and accused the BJP of attempting to “threaten” and “buy” them ahead of Rajya Sabha polls, to be held on August 8. Congress spokesperson and Gujarat MLA Shaktisinh Gohil claimed that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) tried to "buy" 22 of its MLAs by offering Rs 15 crore for cross-voting during the elections to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, to be held on August 8.
"Our legislators have not come here to enjoy. We brought them here to save democracy as they were being poached by BJP, using money and muscle power," Gohil told reporters at the resort, as 44 Gujarat MLAs sat behind him.
The party has sent 44 of its legislators to a resort outside Bengaluru where they posed for camera before the media today. Of the 57 Congress MLAs in Gujarat, six resigned from the party in the last two days.
Seven other MLAs are not part of the group in the resort near Bengaluru but Gohil hoped they would listen to their "inner voice" and not vote against the Congress. The seven MLAs should not forget that they were elected on a Congress ticket, he added.
Gohil said the Congress is fighting to protect democracy as the BJP is hitting below the belt. He said that the MLAs were offered money and were threatened but they chose to stand by the party.
"Ask these MLAs the way they are threatened, they chose to stand by party even when offered Rs 15 crore," Gohil said.
Gohil rejected the charges of the BJP that the Congress legislators were enjoying their stay at the Egleton Golf Resort, neglecting their duties back home at a time when North Gujarat is reeling under floods.
All Congress legislators had visited their constituencies in North Gujarat on July 25 to be among the affected people on party leader Ahmed Patel's urging, he said.
"There is no need for us to stay here (Bengaluru) for even a minute if they say they (BJP) won't threaten. When there was flood in Banaskantha, my MLAs were there with people but no BJP minister or leader were present," Gohil said.
Gohil said the "democracy is passing through trying times" while he requested media to "save democracy."
"Democracy is passing through trying times. I would request media owners, channels and newspapers to save democracy. This responsibility lies with them too. We will bring all the legislators before you (media) and you can ask anything you want," Gohil told reporters at Eagleton Gold Resort at the city's outskirts.
Reacting to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani's charges of internal problems in Congress triggered by the quitting of its leaders, Gohil said, "I am here since last night with my colleagues. We are living like a family. You (BJP) are talking about internal problem? Just see how we respect each other. There is no internal problem or bickerings between us."
The Congress had sent the 44 legislators to the resort to fend off "poaching" attempts by BJP ahead of August 8 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. Gohil claimed that Congress has 60 legislators with it and ruled out BJP winning the third Rajya Sabha seat, polls for which are scheduled on August 8 in Gujarat.
"We have 44 legislators here, and we are also in touch with seven legislators, who are not here with us, and a few others from other parties including NCP are also voting for us. All in all, we have 60 legislators voting for our candidate," he said.
In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the strength of the Congress has gone down to 51 from 57.
Congress has re-nominated Patel, political secretary to party chief Sonia Gandhi, to the Upper House of Parliament from Gujarat. The desertions have cast a shadow on the fate of Patel in the coming Rajya Sabha polls.
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 of 11 RS members from the state, the term of three--Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Ahmed Patel-- will end on August 18.