Amid reports that 13 Congress MLAs were likely to join the ruling BJP in Gujarat ahead of the state Assembly polls due later this year, 11 of the legislators today claimed that they were not switching sides. They accused the saffron party of “spreading rumours” and “maligning” their image through such “false news”. The social media, local newspapers as well as television channels were abuzz with reports that at least 13 Congress MLAs were in touch with the BJP leaders through some industrialists, who were trying to broker a deal between the two parties. However, at a joint press conference here, 11 of these MLAs — Anil Joshiara, Ashwin Kotwal, Amit Chaudhary, Gyasuddin Shaikh, Kaminiaba Rathod, Baldevji Thakor, Manibhai Vaghela, Mahendrasinh Baraiya, Mahesh Patel, Joitabhai Patel and Punabhai Gamit — asserted that they were not quitting the Congress party. Congress’ chief whip in the Assembly Balwantsinh Rajput and MLA Shailesh Parmar were also present on the occasion. However, two of the 13 MLAs — Meraman Ahir and Mahendrasinh Vaghela (son of senior Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela) — were not present at the press conference. “Ahir and Vaghela could not come here as the press meet was called at a short notice. Otherwise, all the 13 MLAs, whose names have been doing the rounds in the media, hereby deny these reports. All of them are with the Congress and will fight against the BJP in the coming polls,” said Rajput. According to Thakor, no Congress MLA was in touch either with the BJP leaders or any industrialist. “None of us is in contact with the BJP leaders or any industrialist. This is a conspiracy by the BJP to malign our public image by spreading such false news,” he said. The Congress leader also said the media should verify the facts before running such stories.
City MLA Gyasuddin Shaikh said he returned from Mecca yesterday. “I was in Mecca for the last several weeks and returned yesterday. I want to reiterate that all of us are against the ideology of the BJP and would never leave the Congress to join that party,” he said. A month ago, former Congress in-charge for Gujarat Gurudas Kamat had claimed before the media that BJP leaders were trying to lure some of his party MLAs to switch sides. However, Rajput today refuted the claim saying no Congress MLA got such an offer from the ruling party.