New Delhi: There is no immediate threat to the Congress government in Rajasthan, sources in the party told ThePrint, amid allegations by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot that the BJP was 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.
The Congress’ central leadership has intervened, the sources said.
There was no official confirmation from the Congress on reports of Pilot meeting interim president Sonia Gandhi and former president Rahul Gandhi, but a senior party leader said the “matter will be resolved today”. The central leadership of the Congress hasn’t said anything on the matter officially, though party sources said all developments are being monitored continuously.
A senior leader said a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) would be held tonight. “In this meeting, it will become clear how many MLAs are with Gehlot and how many are missing. The chief minister is quite confident that he has the numbers,” said the Congress leader.
Pilot met senior leader Ahmed Patel Saturday night and apprised him of the entire situation, the party sources said, adding that there was no clarity on his current whereabouts.
ThePrint approached Pilot through text messages and calls, but there was no response. A close aide of the deputy CM, however, said he won’t be attending the CLP meeting.
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A Congress leader said Ajay Maken and Randeep Surjewala are being sent to Jaipur, and they will meet the party’s Rajasthan in-charge Avinash Pandey.
In the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs while the BJP has 72. The Congress also has the support of independent MLAs and legislators of other parties, including the Rashtriya Lok Dal, CPI(M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party.
The Gehlot-Pilot tussle
The internal rivalry between Gehlot and Pilot goes back a long time, but became more prominent during the Rajasthan assembly elections in 2018. Pilot has the support of a few Congress and independent MLAs.
Gehlot Saturday alleged that the BJP was trying to topple his government. The Rajasthan Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) has arrested two persons and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has filed a preliminary inquiry against three independent MLAs for alleged attempts to bribe Congress MLAs ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in June, and destabilise the government.
The trigger for the current tension, according to a senior Congress leader, was an SOG notice issued to Pilot Saturday to appear before it. The notice asked Pilot to get his statement recorded in connection with the alleged attempts to destabilise the Congress government. The same day, the SOG also asked CM Gehlot to record his statement.
The home department comes under Gehlot, and the Pilot camp has alleged that the notice was served on him at the CM’s behest.
“This acted as the trigger and forced him to come out. He is very upset over the recent developments as he feels this is being done at the behest of Gehlot,” the leader said, adding that Pilot wants the probe against him and his supporters to be stopped.
A Congress functionary said the Gehlot camp is also making efforts to remove Pilot as the state president, citing the “one man, one post” criteria.
“This issue is nothing but a complete power tussle between the CM and the deputy CM. Pilot has been alleging that officials don’t listen to him, Gehlot is trying to get him removed as the state president. The way things are playing out after Madhya Pradesh incident (Jyotiraditya Scindia joining the BJP with MLAs supporting him after a tussle with CM Kamal Nath), it only demoralises the workers,” the functionary said.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal publicly expressed concern over the issue, tweeting: “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?”
Worried for our party
Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables ?
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) July 12, 2020
Pilot’s former party colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia, meanwhile, posted a tweet in his support.
“Sad to see my erstwhile colleague, @SachinPilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan CM, @ashokgehlot51. Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the
@INCIndia,” he wrote.
— Jyotiraditya M. Scindia (@JM_Scindia) July 12, 2020
BJP denies charges
The Rajasthan BJP has denied allegations of trying to topple the government.
“It is their own internal tussle for power that is coming out in open. BJP has got nothing to do with it,” said Satish Poonia, the state BJP president.
“During the Rajya Sabha elections, we had fielded an extra candidate and they said they had the numbers and they won. The matter ended there, but they are now busy making allegations that we are trying to topple their government, which is far from the truth. They are in fact trying to defame their own deputy CM,” Poonia said.
A source in the BJP told ThePrint that the party was in touch with Congress MLAs during the Rajya Sabha elections. “The situation in Rajasthan is quite different from Madhya Pradesh as the number gap is too huge. We have 72 MLAs and Congress has 107. We are watching the situation closely but no attempts will be made by us at this juncture,” said the source.
Another issue before the BJP is the choice of CM in case it musters up numbers, as the central leadership is not in favour of Vasundhara Raje. “Even if this was to materialise, which seems difficult, Raje won’t allow anyone else to take her place. Even we need to iron out a lot of issues before we even think about any such move,” the source said.
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