Congress makes its legislators take oath to vote for party contestants

Widespread discontent among its legislators may play spoilsport for Congress, some may vote for an independent candidate.

In an unprecedented move, the Congress Party on Thursday had its legislators swear allegiance to the party and take a religious oath to vote only for their RS candidate Ajay Maken. Speaking to The Daily Guardian Review on condition of anonymity, a Congress MLA said this was done to prevent cross-voting on June 10. The religious oath would stop them from voting against the party candidate, said the Congress legislator. The party had moved almost all its legislators to a Raipur hotel in Chhattisgarh fearing they might switch allegiance and resort to cross-voting.

The oath taking by Congress legislators shows the desperation of the party leadership, says the source, which is facing infighting for fielding a rank outsider like Maken for the Rajya Sabha. The decision has not only rattled the rank and file but also annoyed stalwarts of the party in the state.

In fact, Congress has been struggling to keep its flock together from day one after iTV founder Kartikeya Sharma entered the fray and filed his nomination as an independent candidate for the Rajya Sabha. The BJP and its ally JJP, who have together 50 MLAs in the 90-member state Assembly, have declared support to Sharma’s candidature. Sharma is also learned to have secured support from independent legislators.

Given the endorsement Sharma is finding from among legislators, despite being a debutant, the discontent has added to party woes. Kuldeep Bishnoi, four-time MLA, had skipped the nomination filing process Maken, for instance. He is sulking for a long time as he was denied the post of state president by the party high command. According to sources, Rahul Gandhi has personally spoken to woe him. So far, Bishnoi has kept his cards close to his chest, though he might vote for an independent candidate, say sources.

In order to rein in its party legislators and ensure the RS polls are conducted to party’s satisfaction, the Congress has appointed Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Congress Himachal Pradesh in-charge Rajeev Shukla.

In the meanwhile, Congress MLAs who were herded out to Raipur are learnt to have left for Delhi on Thursday.