Gujarat: BJP mocks Cong as 'sinking ship', Singhvi warns deserting MLAs of 'serious consequences'

Six more Congress MLAs decided to jump ship on Friday.

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Ravi Shankar Prasad

 The Congress on Friday accused the BJP of using "crores of rupees" as well as "muscle and state power" in Gujarat to engineer defections ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha polls.

Stating that the party was keeping all its options open, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi warned MLAs of the "serious consequences" of anti-defection and anti-corruption laws that could bar them from contesting elections for up to six years and lead to imprisonment of up to seven years. He recalled court judgements that termed defections a "constitutional sin" and unprincipled defections a "social evil".

"Crores of rupees have been spent in horse-trading in Gujarat by the BJP. You have seen this naked drama... The policy of the BJP in Gujarat is - by hook or by crook, come to power by breaking all laws," he told the media here. The party's comments came after six Congress MLAs quit the Congress before the Rajya Sabha elections for three seats, a defection that may impact the results for the party that had 57 MLAs in the 182-member Assembly.

While Amit Shah and Smriti Irani have been fielded by the BJP, the Congress has, for the third seat in the state, once again backed Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Sonia Gandhi. The defections may have a bearing on the election for this seat. "The anti-defection law is supreme and repeatedly the Supreme Court has called defections a constitutional sin," Singhvi said.

He alleged Congress Gujarat MLA Punabhai Gamit was offered Rs 10 crore by the BJP. Singhvi also accused the BJP of adopting unlawful measures and, with the use of money and power, forcing the Congress MLAs to switch sides and quit the assembly. "If the MLAs think they cannot come under the anti- defection law, they are mistaken. If found guilty under the law, they face future disqualification for six years," he said.

He added under the Prevention of Corruption Act receiving gratification for doing something in return was corruption and hinted the MLAs could face upto seven years in jail under the anti-corruption law. Asked if the Congress party would invoke the anti- defection law, he said, "We reserve all our rights. This is only the beginning. The election is still 8 10 days away." As far as invocation and action were concerned, he said, "Let me assure you, all options are open to us, none are closed." He hinted the Congress might move court. He also pointed to the "dangerous game" the BJP was playing.

On whether it was a warning to the MLAs, he said, "Facts constitute warnings, facts constitute consequences, facts constitute reality and facts constitute truth taken in whichever adjective you like". "Facts cannot be ignored unless you are an ostrich who puts its head in the sand. So we are making you aware of a legal fact, a political fact," he said. Singhvi accused the BJP of engineering defections by using "money, muscle and state power". Subverting the authority of elected governments "has become the hallmark of the ruling party", he said.

"The BJP believes in shamelessly denigrating, decimating and deprecating every institution of democracy and those institutions include Assemblies, Parliament, MLAs, MPs and all the Constitutional provisions against corruption and defection," he said. Singhvi said the BJP's "lectures on morality and anti- corruption were in inverse proportion to its practice".

"Their words and deeds have a difference of the sky and the underworld. Their preaching and practices are completely divergent," he said. He cited the examples of Goa, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, where after having lost the peoples' mandate they made "every possible attempt to cobble up" a government by "undemocratic, illegal and immoral means". The spokesperson described the developments in Bihar as a "conspiracy and collusion between our Prime Minister and a person seeking a continuous sixth term CMship, Nitish Kumar".

On Kumar switching sides, he said it was like "number portability" where the chief minister was the same, but the "service provider" had changed from the RJD to the BJP. "It's chief minister portability," he said. Referring to J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Congress leader said the divergence of opinions between the two coalition partners (PDP and BJP) and the Centre, and within the partners, was "like the sky and the bottom of the ocean".

"This is just a camouflage of words to hide their differences. What the country wants, what the principal opposition wants, is an answer on the substance, not on words which camouflage this difference," he said. Singhvi said it was an open secret that not a single policy of the Central government had been accepted or implemented in "a genuine spirited sense" by the J&K state government. "In this terrible-terrible divergence, who is suffering? The most vital part of India and every Indian," he said. On another question on the Panama Papers, Singhvi said there was "zero tolerance as far as mere allegations and FIR" only when it came to the opposition. "However, 100 per cent tolerance qua non-opposition leaders who may be in the same list with the same charge," he said.

BJP mocks Sonia and Rahul

The BJP today said the decision of senior Gujarat Congress leaders to quit the party shows that it is a "sinking ship" as its chief Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul are unable to hold the crumbling organisation. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad lashed out at the Congress over its allegation of "horse-trading" against his party, wondering if it suggested that it had given important position to leaders who could be purchased.

"The entire allegations of the Congress that the BJP is doing horse-trading in Gujarat is not only false and laughable but shows its utter desperation," he told PTI. "A senior leader like Shankersinh Vaghela, former chief minister and the leader of opposition, has left the Congress. Three-time MLA and its chief whip Balwantsinh Rajput has left it too. Eminent doctor and its whip Tejashreeben Patel has left it. Does the Congress want to suggest that it has given important positions to such leaders who could be purchased?," Prasad said.

The allegations showed the "utter political bankruptcy" of the Congress and the fact was that it was a "sinking ship" and all these leaders were deserting it because they were not getting respect and their due, he said adding it was wrong to blame the BJP for it. The fact is that the Congress has become the biggest "patron and promoter of corruption" which was causing extreme disillusionment among its supporters and cadres, Prasad alleged.

The Congress had accused the BJP of horse-trading in Gujarat and using "money, muscle and state power" to engineer defections ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha polls in which its senior leader Ahmed Patel is seeking a re-election.

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