The 44 Congress MLAs cloistered at a five star resort in Bengaluru, to prevent their poaching by the Bharatiya Janata Party, have rested and will spend the day visiting local temples and tourist sites, according to media reports. However, speaking to the Hindu, the politicians refuted agency reports from last night that they were brought to the Eagleton Golf Resort at Bidadi against their wish.
"We are all here because the BJP has created an atmosphere of fear in Gujarat, luring legislators with huge amounts of money, misusing government machinery to threaten legislators," Congress MLA Paresh Dhanani told The Hindu. He said there was "no truth" that they were kept at the resort against their will and "were all free and talking to our family and relatives."
"We are all here because the BJP has created an atmosphere of fear in Gujarat, luring legislators with huge amounts of money."
According to the resort's website, charges for executive suites were as high as Rs 8500 a day, including meals, and deluxe rooms were for Rs 7500 a day. Gujarat Congress was driven to panic after losing six MLAs to the BJP ahead of the 8 August Rajya Sabha elections.
Yesterday, IANS reported that the MLAs, who were flown from Ahmedabad on Saturday, were "restive", complaining they were cut off from their people.
"We have been brought and kept here against our will. We want to go back to our constituencies as they are flood-hit and our people are affected," one of the legislators was heard telling their manager Naresh Rawal in Gujarati," a party spokesperson told IANS.
Security at the Eagleton Golf Resort has been increased and the MLAs have been booked into 35 deluxe rooms.
The MLAs will today go on a pilgrimage tour, reports said. The party's Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha member D.K. Suresh, who is looking after the needs of the lawmakers, told reporters yesterday that the MLAs were "enjoying the weather".
"We are planning to take them to some temples and tourist spots in the state over the next few days," Suresh said. Gujarat Congress in-charge Ashok Gehlot told PTI: "This has been done to protect our MLAs. They are being threatened to join the BJP, which is using muscle, state and money power to poach our legislators."
"The mobile phones of the MLAs have been taken away as nobody can threaten or coerce them," he added.
"This is the internal problem of the Congress as its leader of opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela, its chief whip Balwantsinh Rajput and spokesperson Tajeshriben Patel have quit as they faced difficulties. They have taken their MLAs to Bengaluru as they do not have faith in their MLAs," Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said.
After Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanded that the Election Commission (EC) lodge a criminal case against the BJP for poaching its MLAs using "money and muscle" power, the poll body reportedly sought a report from the Gujarat Chief Secretary, Indian Express reported.
In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the strength of the Congress has gone down to 51 from 57, following the resignations of six MLAs. The BJP has fielded party president Amit Shah, Union minister Smriti Irani and former Congress MLA Balwantsinh Rajput. Of the total 11 RS members from the state, the term of three — Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya (both BJP) and Ahmed Patel — is ending on August 18.
"They (Congress legislators) are cattle...they are being taken to a cage. Only BJP can give them the fodder," BJP leader Subramanian Swamy told reporters.
(With additional reports from PTI and IANS)