Gujarat's political climate is heating up amid speculation that the ruling BJP will engineer defections of Congress MLAs to ensure its victory on two Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant after resignations of BJP President Amit Shah and former Minister Smriti Irani, who have been elected to the Lok Sabha.
Going by the present party position in the 182-member state Assembly, the BJP and the Congress can win one seat each. This means a loss of one seat to the ruling party in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 99 seats against the requirement of 124 seats for a majority.
The BJP needs at least 11 assembly seats more than its present strength of 103 to comfortably win both the seats. This can only happen if the opposition MLAs cross-vote or join the BJP and vote in its favour. The Congress has 71 MLAs, the Bharatiya Tribal Party two, the Nationalist Congress Party one, Independents two, while three seats are vacant.
What has given grist to the rumour mill that some Congress legislators might join the BJP in the coming days are two simultaneous statements by Gujarat BJP President Jitu Vaghani and rebel Congress MLA Alpesh Thakore, who along with another legislator Dhavalsinh Jhala, quit the opposition party, days before the Lok Sabha elections.
But they have not resigned as MLAs and the Congress had two weeks ago made a representation to Speaker Rajendra Trivedi to disqualify them.
Vaghani told local Gujarati TV channels: "We are in the habit of winning, victory has always been ours. Wait and watch."
Hours later on Monday, Thakore was quoted by media as saying: "At least 15 Congress MLAs are unhappy with the way the party treats them and are in touch with me. They may quit anytime soon."
Thakore might himself join the BJP. He does not deny this and to questions about possibility of his joining the ruling party, said: "Everything happens for good. I want to do a lot for my community (OBC Thakores) and for the poor in the state."
He even met Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel in Gandhinagar on Tuesday.
Another legislator and Congress turncoat Asha Patel has added to the speculations claiming that "more than 30 Congress MLAs are very unhappy with the party leadership and willingly join the BJP if invited".
Patel, along with three other turncoats, took oath as BJP MLAs after being re-elected in by-elections held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.
Gujarat Congress President Amit Chavda, who has offered his resignation owning moral responsibility for the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha elections in the state, strongly denied that any party would cross over.
"Those who have deserted us had been lured away but not a single Congress MLA will join the BJP now," Chavda told reporters on Wednesday. Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani has also offered to resign for the party losing all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)