With its MLAs and supporting legislators accounted for following a purported threat of poaching from the rival BJP, the Congress in Rajasthan appears set to win two of the three Rajya Sabha seats on offer in the state for which election will be held on Friday.
According to Congress sources, the party is assured of the support of 126 MLAs for its two candidates, which includes its own strength of 107 legislators in the Assembly as well as independents and members from smaller parties.
The party has fielded K.C. Venugopal, AICC General Secretary in charge of Organisation, and Neeraj Dangi, a state Congress leader, in the elections. However, the BJP queered the pitch by nominating two candidates—Rajendra Gehlot and O.S. Lakhawat—despite having the numbers to get only one elected.
The political temperatures soared last week as the Congress summoned all its MLAs to Jaipur and they were sequestered in a resort on the outskirts of the state capital. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot accused the BJP of attempting to poach the Congress MLAs. He claimed that huge amounts of cash had reached Jaipur as part of the BJP's operation to destabilise his government by offering inducements to MLAs to switch camps.
The Congress MLAs and independent legislators supporting the Gehlot government were shifted to a five-star hotel in Jaipur, where they were supposed to stay till the day of voting in the Rajya Sabha election. Interestingly, the BJP too has moved its MLAs to a hotel in the state capital ahead of the polls.
As speculation intensified about factionalism in the state unit of the Congress, Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot held a joint press conference in an effort to project a united face, and they asserted that their government was stable and the party's candidates will win.