After the resignation of Shankersinh Vaghela as Leader of the Opposition, in another setback to the Congress in Gujarat, three of its legislators, including its chief whip, resigned from the party on Thursday and joined the BJP ahead of the elections to three Rajya Sabha seats.

Those who resigned were chief whip in the Assembly Balwantsinh Rajput, Tajashri Patel and Prahlad Patel.

A few more MLAs are likely to tender their resignations on Friday, said sources.

Leadership criticised

All the three MLAs criticised the Congress leadership for the infighting and indecisiveness and said they would like to join the development journey started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Third candidate

According to BJP insiders, Mr. Rajput is likely to be fielded by the BJP against Ahmed Patel, the lone Congress candidate for the Rajya Sabha.

“Balwantsinh will be the third Rajya Sabha candidate of the BJP, besides party president Amit Shah and Union Minister Smriti Irani,” a party leader said.

Mr. Rajput is a senior Congress legislator and is related to Mr. Vaghela, who has split the party ahead of the Assembly elections. With the resignation of three legislators, the Congress’s tally in the 182-member House has shrunk to 54.

This makes the Rajya Sabha election a high-stake battle for Mr. Ahmed Patel, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary. “It has become a high-stake battle now because Amit Shah and Shankersinh Vaghela have joined hands to make the sailing difficult for the trusted aide of the Nehru Gandhi family,” a political insider told The Hindu.

Two MLAs of the Nationalist Congress Party and the lone member of the JD(U) have supported the nomination of Mr. Patel, but the exit of a large number of legislators from his own party makes the battle a tightrope walk for him.

In the recent presidential elections, as many as 11 Congress legislators reportedly defied the party mandate and voted for BJP candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
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