New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started shifting its Rajasthan MLAs to the Devi Ratn resort in Jaipur ahead of the 10 June Rajya Sabha elections, while Congress legislators remain sequestered in an Udaipur resort.
State BJP leaders claimed that party MLAs were being shifted to the Jaipur resort for a “training camp”, and not to prevent any poaching attempts.
“A training programme has been organised where the MLAs, apart from being told about the eight years of Modi government, will also be taught about the correct way to vote. There will be dummy EVMs and legal experts to clear any doubts that the MLAs may have,” a senior state BJP leader told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
“At the same time, there will be a review of the state unit by senior leaders of the party including Arun Singh, Narendra Singh Tomar among others,” he added.
Senior party leader Gulab Chand Kataria also told reporters Monday that the move was aimed at training the MLAs on how to cast votes for the Rajya Sabha polls.
“What is wrong with MLAs staying together? It has happened in the past too,” he said while in Jaipur.
There are five candidates in the fray against four Rajya Sabha vacancies in the state. Three of the five candidates belong to the Congress, while the BJP has fielded one candidate and is also backing Subhash Chandra, chief of media conglomerate Essel Group, who is contesting independently.
A candidate needs 41 votes to be elected to the Rajya Sabha. The Congress, which has 108 MLAs in the state, is certain about two of its nominees, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Surjewala, winning. However, it is short of 15 MLAs to ensure the victory of its third candidate, Pramod Tiwari.
Similarly, with his party having 71 MLAs in the state, BJP candidate Ghanshyam Tiwari is comfortably placed. However, the BJP will need the support of 11 more MLAs to assure independent candidate Chandra’s win.
This is where the role of independent MLAs and smaller parties becomes crucial. The Congress claims to have the support of 126 MLAs.
Both Congress and BJP have accused each other of trying to “poach” MLAs in the Pramod Tiwari versus Subhash Chandra battle.
On Sunday, six of the Congress’ state MLAs who had kept away from the Udaipur, accompanied Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to the city in a private aircraft Sunday.
Rajya Sabha elections are being held because 57 members from 15 states are retiring with their six-year terms coming to an end.
Fissures in both state units
At present, there are fissures in both the Congress and BJP’s state units.
Ghanshyam Tiwari, who has been fielded by the BJP, is considered a long-time detractor of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. The party is hoping to gain from alleged differences between Gehlot and his former deputy, Sachin Pilot, to secure Subhash Chandra’s victory.
The Rajya Sabha polls are crucial for CM Gehlot, at a time when Pilot is believed to be mounting pressure on the party high command for a change of guard in Rajasthan, ahead of the 2023 assembly elections.
In 2018, when the Congress had won 100 seats in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, the Gandhis had chosen Gehlot over Pilot, allegedly to provide stability to the government. Gehlot had successfully steered the ship between 2008 and 2013, though the party had fallen short of the majority mark in the 2008 state polls.
On Saturday, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) issued a whip asking six MLAs who were elected on BSP tickets but merged with the Congress in 2019, to vote for independent candidate Subhash Chandra.
The BSP has maintained that these MLAs can’t violate the whip since they had won on their party’s ticket. The Congress has reportedly rubbished this claim, saying that since no court has given a stay on their Congress membership, these MLAs continue to be members of the party.
While the Taj Aravali Resort in Udaipur is the temporary address for Congress legislators in Rajasthan, the Mayfair Lake Resort in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, is playing host to Haryana Congress MLAs.
However, there is no clarity on whether the two MLAs from the Gujarat-based Bharatiya Tribal Party, two from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the remaining 13 Independents will vote for the Congress.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)