The Congress in Rajasthan faced trouble on Saturday with the emergence of a “dissident faction”, which has questioned the Ashok Gehlot government and refused to join the MLAs sequestered at a resort near Udaipur ahead of the June 10 Rajya Sabha elections.
A total of 95 MLAs, including 11 Independents, have so far reached the Udaipur camp, arranged for protecting them from horse-trading.
Five of the MLAs, including a Minister, who won as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates but later merged with the Congress, and two Congress legislators have not joined the party camp in Udaipur, accusing the leadership of ignoring them and failing to control the bureaucrats unwilling to cooperate with them. The MLAs hinted that there could be many more who were not happy on various issues.
Minister of State for Sainik Kalyan Rajendra Singh Gudha said the MLAs who had merged with the ruling Congress in 2019 were not given the respect which they deserved. The display of dissent was perceived in the political circles here as a pressure tactic which may force the Congress government to accede to some of the demands of these legislators.
Congress MLAs Girraj Singh Malinga and Khiladi Lal Bairwa, both from Dholpur district, have also not joined the Udaipur camp.
Chief Minister Mr. Gehlot has reportedly given the responsibility to Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh to meet the dissident legislators and convince them to support the Congress candidates in the polling.
Congress candidates Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Surjewala are set to win from the State with the ruling party having a sufficient number of first-preference votes, but the third candidate, Pramod Tiwari, faces contest from Independent candidate Subhash Chandra, backed by the BJP.
The BJP’s official nominee, Ghanshyam Tiwari, is certain to win with the support of Opposition MLAs.
The BSP issued a whip on Saturday asking the six MLAs, who had merged with the Congress, to vote only for Mr. Chandra. Of the six BSP-turned-Congress MLAs, only one — Joginder Awana — is in the camp in Udaipur.
BSP State president Bhagwan Singh Baba said the six MLAs had won their seats in the 2018 Assembly election on BSP symbol and were “bound to follow the [party] whip”.
Mr. Baba said the BSP had decided to oppose the candidates of both the Congress and the BJP because it did not agree with the policies of either of them.
“If the MLAs violate the whip, we will take appropriate action against them,” he said. Besides Mr. Gudha, the MLAs who did not go to the camp were Deepchand Kheria, Wajib Ali, Sandeep Yadav and Lakhan Singh Meena.
The Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), which had earlier announced that it would abstain from voting, has softened its stand by offering “conditional support” to Congress. The party, which has two MLAs from Dungarpur district, has sought an assurance from the State government on its demands which include dropping of cases against tribal youths in the Kakri-Doongri violence in 2020 and appointments to the backlog of jobs.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which also has two members in the House, is yet to make its stand clear. CPI(M) State Secretary Amra Ram said the party would deliberate on the issue and take a decision soon.
Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Singh Dotasra, who arrived in Udaipur on Saturday, said the six MLAs, who had won on BSP ticket, were now Congress legislators and the party would sort out the issue of their resentment, which might be connected with the problems in their constituencies.
Mr. Dotasra affirmed that all the three candidates fielded by Congress would win comfortably to represent Rajasthan in the Upper House.