Only 29 Cong MLAs from Gujarat could make it for Delhi meeting: Rathwa

Only 29 out of 63 Congress legislators from Gujarat could make it to Delhi on Wednesday after being summoned by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) to take part in the ongoing protests against the Enforcement Direct-orate (ED) questioning Rahul Gandhi, to take guidance on the Angipath scheme and to second nomination papers of Yashwant Sinha, the joint candidate of the Opposition parties for the Presidential election. Of the 20 MLAs from Saurashtra, only five were part of the assembly at Delhi.

Confirming the numbers, Sukhram Rathva, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in Gujarat, said, “We were in Delhi to sign and second the nomination papers of the candidate of Opposition parties for the Presidential polls.”

The party leaders, however, defended the low turnout citing a workshop of the Saurashtra zone scheduled to take place in Somnath Friday.

However, other leaders claimed that at least 35 MLAs from the state were there. “We protested against the ongoing questioning of Rahul Gandhi by the ED in connection with the National Herald case outside Congress headquarters on Akbar Road in the morning. After Rahul Gandhi’s questioning got over, late in the afternoon, we attended a meeting that was addressed by Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, P Chidambaram, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Randeep Singh Surjewala, etc,” said an MLA who was in Delhi.
Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Jagdish Thakor and Gujarat Mahila Congress chairperson Jeni Thummar were among those who joined the MLAs in Delhi. Congress leaders, MPs and MLAs from other states also attended the meeting.

However, only five of 20 MLAs from Saurashtra made it to Delhi. They include former CLP leader Paresh Dhanani (Amreli constituency), Pratap Dudhat (Savarkundla), Nausahd Solanki (Dasada), Rutwik Makwana (Chotila), Pravin Musadiya (Kalavad). Bachu Arethiya, the husband of Santokben Arethiya — the party’s lone MLA from Kutch, was also in Delhi.

The GPCC Tuesday instructed all its MLAs to go to Delhi Wednesday. “The lower number of MLAs responding positively to the instruction was due to the party’s workshop to be held in Somnath for Saurashtra zone Friday as well as the ongoing training workshops for its social media cell in Dahod district. There was a couple of leave of absence due to ill health,” Rathva said.

The GPCC is organising “Maru Booth, Maru Gaurav (my booth, my pride)”, a one-day workshop for leaders and workers from Saurashtra on Friday for strengthening the party organisation at booth level in the run-up to the Assembly elections in the state.

“All the MLAs and MPs of the party from Saurashtra, presidents and vice-presidents of district and taluka units of the party and the party incharges for districts are supposed to report in Somnath Thursday for the workshop.
Apparently, there was a time constraint and hence, the party didn’t make it mandatory for MLAs from Saurashtra to go to Delhi,” Vimal Chudasama, MLA from Somnath constituency, said.

Those who skipped the Delhi trip include senior leaders Punjabhai Vansh (Una), Virji Thummar (Babra) and Vikram Madam (Khambhalia) as well as Lalit Vasoya, Lalit Kagathara and Harshad Ribadiya. Vansh said he had sought exemption due to prior “social commitments” while Thummar said that his health didn’t permit him to undertake the long journey. Madam said that he couldn’t travel due to the death of a close relative.

Others cited time constraints. “We received messages and phone calls from the state headquarters on Tuesday informing us that we are supposed to travel to Delhi tomorrow… If one were to travel by train, he would not be able to return in time for the Somnath workshop and a one-way flight ticket to Delhi costs between Rs 12,000 and Rs 14,000…,” an MLA said on the condition of anonymity.

Another MLA said: “The instruction to Saurashtra MLAs was that those who could make it to Somnath in time after visiting Delhi should go to Delhi. The short notice almost made it impossible,” said the MLA.

Congress MLA from Junagadh, Bhikha Joshi, said he was in Gandhinagar when he received the party’s summons for Delhi.
“I was not carrying another pair of clothes and had little time to plan the visit to Delhi. Therefore, I returned to Junagadh so that I could attend the Somnath workshop,” said Joshi.
The one-day workshop in Somnath will be addressed by Thakor, AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Raghu
Sharma, and others.

According to an MLA who attended the meeting, P Chidambaram explained the National Herald case and insisted there was no money laundering as being claimed by the ED. “Rahul Gandhi said there is a lot of anger among youth over the Angipath scheme announced by the Central government and asked us to convey it to the youth that the Congress was with them… that they should get a full-time job and not a short commission for four years,” the MLA said adding they were instructed to hold protests against Agnipath on June 27.

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