Trouble is brewing for the Congress in Gujarat. Two of its legislators have resigned. Two more are incommunicado. And the party is facing a factional divide that could diminish its strength further.

This is a major worry for the Congress, especially as it comes just days ahead of Rajya Sabha elections in the state. The polls are set to be a cliffhanger with three candidates of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and two of the Congress vying for four seats. Polling and counting for these seats take place on 19 June.

The developments come on top of the resignation of seven Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of the Congress this year. This has lowered the strength of the party, which has been out of power in the state for nearly 25 years, to 66 in the 182-member Assembly, compared to the BJP’s 103.

Congress MLAs Akshay Patel from Karjan and Jitu Chaudhary from Kaprada met Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi on Wednesday and handed over their resignations. “I have accepted their resignations. They now cease to be legislators,” Trivedi said in Gandhinagar on Thursday. This followed the resignation of five Congress MLAs in March.

The party can win only one Rajya Sabha seat with its current strength, senior leaders pointed out. The Congress won 77 seats in the 2017 Assembly polls but now has only 66 MLAs owing to internal problems. It faced a similar situation during the Rajya Sabha elections in 2017 when party treasurer Ahmed Patel was elected in a nail-biting finish.

“Our strength in the Assembly is decreasing and it is a cause for concern. Resignations mean there is no room for disqualification of votes or legal hindrance. However, they also mean that more Assembly seats will be up for bypolls,” a senior Congress leader from the state said, requesting anonymity. “At least two more of our MLAs are incommunicado and we expect that they too could resign. It is clear that the BJP is behind all that is happening,” said the Congress leader.

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