New Delhi: In yet another instance of ‘resort politics’, the Congress is corralling its MLAs from Rajasthan and Haryana into luxury properties to prevent horse-trading ahead of the June 10 Rajya Sabha elections.
While the Taj Aravali Resort in Udaipur is likely to be the temporary address for legislators in Rajasthan, the Mayfair Lake Resort in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, is playing host to the Haryana group.
The Congress is set to house its 108 Rajasthan MLAs, a few Independents, and some other MLAs supporting it at the Udaipur resort from 4 to 9 June, ThePrint has learnt.
The resort was the venue of the Congress’ mega Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir last month. This time, however, the leadership will be brainstorming over how to avoid cross-voting during the elections for four Rajya Sabha seats as a new contender — media baron Subhash Chandra — entered the fray on Tuesday.
The MLAs will be kept under strict watch and taken straight from the resort to the polling venue, party sources said. It is also learnt that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will be staying with the MLAs during this entire period.
Similar measures are being taken by the Haryana leadership where cross-voting may affect the chances of its candidate, Ajay Maken. Of the two seats in the offing, the Congress has the numbers to win one in the state. But the entry of another media baron and former Congress leader Venod Sharma’s son Kartikeya Sharma may upset its calculation.
Thirty-one Congress MLAs were called to MP Deepender Hooda’s residence in Delhi for a “training session”, of which 28 showed up, and thereafter took the flight to Raipur where the Mayfair Resort was booked till 9 June. The sources said that the session was to brief the MLAs about the need to follow the party whip during the voting even though there “might be temptations”.
The official reason given was that the MLAs would participate in the state-wise Nav Sankalp Shivir being held for all Pradesh Congress Committees. “They will all attend a Chintan and Prashikshan Shivir. As far as Rajya Sabha numbers are concerned, the numbers will be more than the strength of the Congress Legislative Party,” Hooda told reporters at the Delhi airport. “BJP should take care of JJP [Jannayak Janta Party, its Haryana coalition partner] and Independent MLAs supporting it.”
Another Congress functionary, who is overseeing the transportation of the MLAs, claimed that the resort will host the wedding of a Chhattisgarh leader’s daughter for which Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has invited all the Haryana MLAs as well. “So it will be two occasions that the MLAs will be attending,” the functionary said.
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How the numbers stack up
In Rajasthan, where the Congress has 108 MLAs in the 200-member Assembly, 41 votes are required to win each seat. This means that the Congress has absolute numbers to win two of the four seats going for polls, while the BJP with 71 MLAs is assured of one.
As the BJP and the Congress will have 30 and 26 left-over votes respectively, all eyes are on the fourth seat as Essel Group chairman and Zee TV founder Subhash Chandra can queer the pitch for the Congress’ Pramod Tiwari. The media baron, whose tenure as a Rajya Sabha MP from Haryana will be ending in August, is seeking another term as an Independent with help from the BJP.
This means that 13 Independent MLAs will play a decisive role in determining the fate of the fourth seat, as will another eight MLAs from smaller parties like the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist; CPI-M). These permutations and combinations mean that every vote from an MLA will be crucial for the Congress in Rajasthan.
Haryana is more challenging for the Congress given that it is in the Opposition with 31 MLAs in the 90-member Assembly. The BJP is already assured of one seat given its 41 MLAs in the House. Three candidates, including Kartikeya, are vying for two seats from the state. What makes it tougher for the Congress is that senior leader Kuldeep Bishnoi is miffed with the party. He had even met Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar last month. Notably, Bishnoi and three others weren’t part of the group that was flown to Raipur Thursday.
Party insiders say the top brass is also apprehensive because of Kartikeya’s background, because of which he may be able to pull strings with some Congress MLAs, adding to the support he is getting from some regional parties and the BJP.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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