New Delhi: With the infighting between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot out in the open, the Rajasthan CM has claimed the support of 109 MLAs after a meeting of the legislators at his residence. And BJP sources say the party has almost reached a conclusion that Deputy CM Pilot doesn’t have the required numbers needed to topple the Gehlot government, unlike in Madhya Pradesh four months ago, where Jyotiraditya Scindia and his supporters helped the BJP topple Kamal Nath’s government.
A senior BJP leader told ThePrint that the party is “watching the situation very closely”. “The situation is fluid, but we are measuring how wide is the gap (between Pilot’s claim and the actual number of MLAs supporting him),” the leader said.
A Rajasthan BJP leader added: “It appears Pilot does not have required numbers to pull the plug on the Gehlot government. Earlier, he had indicated he had the numbers, but it looks like he has the support of only 10-15 MLA, so the BJP leadership is not too enthusiastic, like we were in Madhya Pradesh.
“But this is the beginning of the battle. If Gehlot survives, we do not know how he will retain the confidence of MLAs in future if one of the leaders who was instrumental in getting the Congress to power (Pilot) is not on board.”
The arithmetic in the assembly is as follows — the Congress has 107 MLAs and the support of 13 Independents, two legislators from the Bharatiya Tribal Party, one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal and two from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), for a total of 125. In last month’s Rajya Sabha polls, the Congress candidates received the support of 123 of these, while two others could not vote.
Sachin Pilot’s camp is claiming the support of 30 MLAs but Gehlot has claimed the support of 109.
Most Congress MLAs are loyal to Gehlot because he was said to be behind 75 per cent of ticket distribution for the 2018 assembly elections, sources said.
The BJP’s own tally is 72, plus three from Hanuman Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.
BJP’s series of meetings
Beginning Sunday, BJP leaders have held several rounds of meetings to formalise their strategy. Rajya Sabha MP and Rajasthan BJP leader Om Mathur met party chief J.P. Nadda Sunday, when it emerged that Pilot was camping with his supporters in Delhi. Then, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was instrumental in the talks with Scindia in MP, met Home Minister Amit Shah Sunday evening. Pilot himself is said to have spoken to Scindia Sunday.
Sources said Shah is monitoring the situation, while Pradhan, fellow minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who hails from Rajasthan, and senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav are looking after the party’s plan. But, the sources added, the leadership got sceptical when it found Sunday night that Pilot doesn’t have the required numbers.
The BJP leader from Rajasthan quoted above said: “This episode has clearly disclosed the rift between the Deputy CM and the CM. The BJP has to do nothing but nurture these differences.
“In any case, politics is not like one-day cricket; we are here to play a Test match. Ashok Gehlot may survive this time, but his stability has gone… He will be more insecure and will make more mistakes. We have to watch the match carefully.”
Options before BJP
Unlike Madhya Pradesh, the BJP is a divided house in Rajasthan. Two-time former CM Vasundhara Raje is not on good terms with the party high command, but has the support of about 45 of the BJP’s 72 MLAs, so it’s difficult to form a government without taking her on board.
But even if Gehlot survives this rebellion, it’s not the end of the road for the BJP. Leaders say Pilot has only one option — he will make conciliatory efforts with Gehlot and the Congress, but will never forget this embarrassment. In either case, they say, the BJP will have a window to strike later.
An unlikely option for now is for Pilot to join the BJP. But without the adequate numbers, the BJP intends to avoid his induction, since many factions will oppose his entry without much political gain.
“In any case, Sachin has to make the first move, only then will the BJP consider it. But it seems unlikely he will join the BJP at this moment. He will make peace with the Congress for the time being,” a BJP leader said.