The Congress today accused the BJP of “stealing” its MLAs under a “premeditated plan” but claimed that its Gujarat Rajya Sabha candidate Ahmed Patel will still win as he has the support of more MLAs than required for victory. Senior Congress spokesperson Ghulam Nabi Azad said Patel was contesting the Rajya Sabha election as a senior Congress leader and not as political secretary to party chief Sonia Gandhi and thus, her name should not be dragged into this poll. “I don’t want to involve the name of the Congress president. He is contesting as the senior Congress leader and not as political secretary,” the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said.
“Ahmed bhai will win by a margin of at least 10 to 15 votes. Our candidate had 13-14 votes surplus and the BJP says they do not steal. Why has the BJP fielded its third candidate for the polls when it does not have the requisite number of MLAs in support. It is only to steal our MLAs,” he said. Azad said, “This is a pre-meditated plan to steal MLAs.” He said the BJP was “plotting” to steal Congress MLAs from the airport itself. “The BJP is creating an atmosphere against them. They (BJP) are saying our MLAs are in Bengaluru when people are suffering because of floods. The BJP wants to exploit the situation so that when they return it could steal some of them and make a few others resign,” he said. He claimed Congress leaders and workers were on the ground, from block to district level, helping flood-hit people.
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The Congress had 57 MLAs in the 182-member Assembly. Of these, six have quit since Thursday, brining down its strength to 51. Patel will require 44 first preference votes for a straight win which does not look very difficult to get at the moment. However, more desertion could jeopardise his chances of getting elected to the RS for the 5th time. He also has the assured support of two MLAs of the NCP and one of the JD(U). The BJP has fielded party chief Amit Shah and renominated Union minister Smriti Irani for two seats and put up Balwantsinh Rajput for the third which is held by Patel.