Manesar: Around 18 Rajasthan Congress MLAs were absent from the meeting convened by the party at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s residence in Jaipur Monday. Although 100 MLAs were present in that meeting, there were only 89 from the Congress, which has 107 MLAs in the 200-member House.
The meeting was a show of strength by the chief minister ahead of a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting slated for later today.
The party, however, adopted a conciliatory tone Monday as it stressed on the fact that its doors remain open for Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot who has alleged that he is being “sidelined” in the party.
Senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, who was sent to Jaipur to handle the political crisis, reiterated in a press conference that the state government is stable and urged those MLAs who have not turned up for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting to do so.
According to sources, around 97-100 MLAs have arrived in Jaipur for the CLP meeting and were present at the chief minister’s residence. Gehlot has claimed that 109 MLAs are with him.
In the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs while the BJP has 72. The Congress also has the support of 11 Independent MLAs, two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, one RJD MLA and the outside support of two CPI(M) MLAs.
“The number of MLAs who attended a meeting in the chief minister’s residence belies the claim of Pilot who had maintained that 30 odd MLAs are with him,” said a senior Congress leader. “Even those who did not attend are being persuaded to come back.”
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‘Senior leaders in touch with Pilot’
Surjewala Monday said senior Congress leaders were in touch with Pilot and had spoken to him several times in the last 72 hours.
“If anyone, be at any post or profile, has any problem, they must come forward and mention the issue in a party forum. We will work to resolve it together and keep our government intact in the state,” said Surjewala, who along with senior leader Ajay Maken, was sent to Jaipur Sunday to resolve the issue.
“We are united, and I urge all the MLAs who have not yet reached to join in,” Surjewala said. “I agree there are sometimes ideological disagreements but it is not the time to allow this disagreement to weaken the government.”
Surjewala reiterated the fact that doors are open for Sachin Pilot and MLAs supporting him to come back and hold talks with the party’s central leadership.
However, he also had a word of caution for Pilot and his supporters. “We can resolve the differences, but one can’t put personal ambitions ahead of the state,” he said.
Still have 24 MLAs backing me: Pilot
According to TV reports, Pilot has still been maintaining that he has the support of 24 MLAs and rubbished Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s claim of 100 MLAs attending the CLP meeting.
Sources said the MLAs owing allegiance to Pilot are holed up at the ITC Grand Bharat Hotel in Manesar.
The political crisis in Rajasthan began Saturday with Gehlot accusing the BJP of trying to topple his government.
On Sunday, sources said Deputy CM Sachin Pilot headed to Delhi along with a few Congress MLAs to apprise the central leadership of how he was being “sidelined”, and that efforts were on to remove him as president of the party’s state unit. Following this, a message was circulated by the office of Sachin Pilot that he would not be attending the CLP meeting.
There were also claims that the Gehlot government is in minority as over 30 Congress and some Independent MLAs have pledged support to Pilot.
The rivalry between Gehlot and Pilot goes back a long way but became more prominent during the Rajasthan assembly elections in 2018.
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