'They are trying to lure our MLAs and that is why we are taking precautions.'
With just a few hours left before the current Maharashtra assembly's term ends -- midnight, November 8 -- and no new government in sight, the Bharatiya Janata Party -- which has 105 MLAs and the support of 15 Independent legislators -- has reportedly begun exhibiting its money and muscle power to cobble up a simple majority -- 145 MLAs -- in the 288-member assembly.
Former Maharashtra chief minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan confirms that at least two to three Congress MLAs have been approached by the BJP with financial offers.
"The Shiv Sena is reluctant to support them (the BJP) and that is why they have initiated their Plan B to poach Congress MLAs. The MLAs themselves have told us," Chavan told Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
He said he could not confirm the exact amount these three Congress MLAs have been offered as "they are travelling."
It has been reported that several Congress MLAs have been moved to Jaipur to prevent poaching by the BJP.
"BJP is power hungry and they won't hesitate to employ any immoral, unlawful acts," alleges Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant. "The country has seen how the BJP formed its governments in Goa and Karnataka."
"They (the BJP) are trying to lure and entice our MLAs and that is why we are taking precautions. We are trying to shift our MLAs to some place," Sawant adds without confirming if the legislators will travel to Congress-ruled Rajasthan as some reports claim.
Another senior Congress leader, speaking on condition that his name would not be cited for this report, says at least 20 party MLAs have been moved to Jaipur.
"Four Congress MLAs have complained about such phone calls (of financial offers from the BJP). 20 or more MLAs have been moved to Jaipur," the Congress leader says. He, however, claims that the MLAs travelled on their own.
"BJP not only tries to entice people with money," Sawant alleges, "but also pressurises them using agencies like the CBI and ED (enforcement directorate)."
"BJP has this culture of using strong arm tactics, money power and muscle power to form their governments," adds Sawant.
"They will blackmail people, they will poach them; they will do anything to make the government. If such kind of regime is in power at the national level and they are using all the machinery available to attain power, we are taking our precautions," he says.
"We are taking precautions does not mean that we don't believe in the loyalty of our MLAs. These questions should be asked to individual MLAs. Why should we not take precautions?" asks Sawant.