Jaisalmer/Jaipur: Congress MLAs loyal to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot shifted from a Jaipur resort to Jaisalmer on Friday, prepared to spend at least the next fortnight holed up in a hotel there.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot boarded one of the five chartered flights to the city, 550 kms away from the state capital by road. But he indicated he will be back.
He told reporters at the airport there will be no compromise with the government's work as he and the ministers will remain in Jaipur.
In Delhi, the Congress approached the Supreme Court against the Rajasthan High Court order restraining the assembly Speaker from acting on the disqualification notices issued to Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident MLAs.
AICC general secretary Avinash Pande and spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also travelled to Jaisalmer with the MLAs. The party claimed about 100 people including MLAs from the Congress, allies and independents boarded the flights.
The MLAs had remained confined to Fairmont hotel on the Delhi-Jaipur highway since July 13, as the infighting between the Gehlot and the Sachin Pilot factions in the Congress escalated.
The Gehlot camp is keeping the MLAs together for a possible vote of confidence it has indicated it will seek when the state assembly meets from August 14.
Gehlot repeated his allegation that there was a sharp increase in the money being offered to the MLAs for switching sides after the announcement Wednesday of the assembly session.
He said the MLAs and their family members were getting threatening calls.
At Jaisalmer airport, the MLAs boarded buses to Suryagarh hotel, a few kilometres outside the city, amid strict security.
Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said the MLAs are being shifted to Jaisalmer so that they can remain united. The chief minister's strategy is that not a single MLA is poached, he added.
We are going to Jaisalmer for a change, Congress MLA Prashant Bairwa said. AICC general secretary Avinash Pande said it was an effort to save democracy.
While Gehlot flashed the victory sign at Jaipur airport, the opposition BJP mocked the Congress move, coming when it claims that its MLAs are united.
What after this? Pakistan lies ahead, BJP's Rajasthan president Satish Poonia said in a statement referring to Jaisalmer's location. When the party MLAs are united and all is well, why is there a need to keep them together?
According to some reports, the 19 dissident MLAs are also camping together in hotels in Gurgaon near Delhi.
On Friday, a team from the Anti Corruption Bureau of the Rajasthan Police was not allowed to enter three hotels where they wanted serve notices to two MLAs, an official said.
The ACB has issued notices to MLAs Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh, asking them to join the investigations into the alleged conspiracy to topple the Gehlot government.
Authorities at two hotels gave us in writing that they were not staying there, while authorities at another hotel said it is closed, said Deputy Superintendent of Police Saleh Mohammad.
Congress chief whip in Rajasthan Assembly, Mahesh Joshi, on Friday filed a petition challenging the high court order asking the speaker to defer disqualification proceeding against the dissident MLAs.
Speaker C P Joshi filed a similar petition two days back.
Mahesh Joshi's petition said the dissident MLAs had indulged in the grossest form of defection by making grave and sinister attempts to topple the Gehlot government.
Meanwhile, the Special Operations Group of the Rajasthan Police will move the High Court for taking a voice sample from Sanjay Jain, arrested after being allegedly caught on tape discussing a plan to bring the Gehlot government down, an official said.
The Congress has accused the BJP of engineering horse-trading to bring down the Congress government. Including the 19 dissidents, the Congress has 107 MLAs in the 200-member assembly and the BJP 72.