Politics

EC Asks Gujarat Chief Secretary to Probe MLA Poaching Allegations Against BJP

In a memorandum submitted to the Election Commission, the Congress alleged that the BJP was using money power and threats to get MLAs over to their side before the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat.

The BJP is hoping to win all three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat, though the Congress should have the numbers to retain one seat if there are no further defections. Credit: PTI

The BJP is hoping to win all three Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat, though the Congress should have the numbers to retain one seat if there are no further defections. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Reacting to a memorandum submitted by the Congress alleging misuse of power and authority by the BJP and the ruling Gujarat government in the ensuing Rajya Sabha elections in the state, the Election Commission (EC) on Saturday (July 29) sought a report from state chief secretary on the allegations.

The EC has also issued directions to the Gujarat government to ensure proper security to all MLAs and their family members. The state is headed for Rajya Sabha elections on August 8.

A ‘murder of democracy’

Earlier on Saturday, a delegation of Congress leaders comprising leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, deputy leader of the opposition Anand Sharma, MPs Vivek K. Tankha and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and Congress national spokesperson Manish Tewari met EC officials and alleged that the BJP was using money power to woo away its MLAs.

Emerging from the meeting, Tewari alleged that the BJP was indulging in the “murder of democracy” by threatening MLAs in an unconstitutional manner. He charged that the party had not only threatened Congress MLAs and their families, but had also resorted to the use of money power.

On Ahmad Patel’s re-election

The term of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmad Patel, who is seeking a fifth term in the Rajya Sabha, is ending along with those of BJP Rajya Sabha members from Gujarat Smriti Irani and Dilipbhai Pandya on August 18. The BJP has fielded three candidates, including party president Amit Shah, for these seats.

While each Rajya Sabha candidate needs 46 votes to win, the BJP which was certain of victory on two of the seats as it has 120 MLAs in the 182-member House, has jeopardised Ahmad’s chances of another win by fielding Balwantsinh Rajput, who had crossed over to the saffron party minutes after resigning as a Congress MLA, opposite him. A close relative of former Congress chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, Rajput will also be eyeing the spare BJP votes.

The Congress, however, said it is unhappy with the manner in which the BJP secured the resignations of Rajput and five of its other MLAs. The party then decided to move 40 MLAs to a resort in Bangalore to avoid further poaching. It is believed that the party was also considering moving some of these MLAs to resorts in Kerala and Tamil Nadu to keep them “safe”.

Congress MLA ‘offered Rs 10 crore’

Emerging from the EC, Singhvi said while the party has confidence in its MLAs, “the way BJP is forcing them to deflect is unconstitutional.” He had earlier alleged that one of the MLAs, Puna Lal Gamit, had claimed that he had been offered Rs 10 crore to defect.

Sharma said the timing of the resignations of the six MLAs was also suspect, as these have come close at the heels of the Rajya Sabha elections.

In their memorandum, the Congress leaders charged that “the might of money and muscle power is currently in full display by the ruling BJP, dispensation to engineer and manipulate defections/resignations.”

Levelling allegations of allurements by the BJP, the Congress said it was shocked to learn from its MLAs Puna Bhai, Mangalbhai G. Gamit and Ishwarbhai Patel that they had been approached by the BJP and its agents to defect in consideration of monetary allurements. “It is also shocking to note that even the official machinery of the state is being used to foster political purposes, as is evident by the conduct of N.K. Amin and S.P. Tapi,” the party charged.

Enclosing the statements of the three MLAs along with the memorandum, the Congress said “crores of rupees” were being “openly offered to induce MLAs”. “It is beyond imagination that such machinations for defection and to seek resignation are happening in a State from where a Union cabinet minister Smriti Irani and the president of BJP Amit Shah are candidates for Rajya Sabha seat,” the memorandum stated.

Stating that the sanctity and purity of elections is the fundamental basis of a democracy, the party urged the EC to take immediate cognisance and order the registration of charges against all persons who are directly and indirectly indulging in “wilful horse trading, inducements and abuse and misuse of power”.

It urged that action be taken under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Indian Penal Code and also the relevant provisions of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.

The party demanded the constitution of a high-powered committee of independent persons/officers to enquire into the charges of money power, muscle power and blatant abuse of government machinery for purposes of engineering the defection and resignations of Congress MLAs.

It also demanded that the probe be completed by this committee in a time-bound manner in the interest of free and fair Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat.

Six Congress MLAs have resigned, others threatening to go

The resignation of six MLA has hurt the Congress as it was hoping to win one of the three Rajya Sabha seats. The party originally had 58 MLAs in the assembly. But with Rajput, Tejashree Patel and Prahlad Patel resigning on July 27 and Ramsinh Parmar, Mansingh Chouhan and Chhanabhai Chaudhary a day later, the Congress has been left ruing its prospects. It had earlier in the week seen old-time warhorse Vaghela’s resignation from the party and had also witnessed cross voting by 11 of its MLAs in the presidential elections.

While numerically it may still seem that Ahmad has the numbers with him as 52 Congress MLAs are still in the party and the support of 47 is needed to secure a win, the spare votes of the BJP and the possibility that some of the other MLAs may also cross-vote – as they did in the presidential polls – looms large. Some of the other party MLAs like Raghavjee Patel and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja have already declared their intention to quit.