The ITC Grand Bharat in Manesar, Haryana, where MLAs of the Sachin Pilot camp are staying | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
The ITC Grand Bharat in Manesar, Haryana, where MLAs of the Sachin Pilot camp are staying | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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New Delhi: The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan seems to have taken a leaf out of the BJP’s book, sending the state police’s Special Operations Group to the resort in Manesar, Haryana, where rebel MLAs of the Sachin Pilot camp are staying, ostensibly to collect evidence in the form of voice samples.

The SOG, which comes directly under Gehlot as he handles the home portfolio, filed an FIR Friday, after the Congress demanded one, alleging a conspiracy to topple the government.

The FIR names rebel MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and one Sanjay Jain, who is said to be close to the BJP. All three men’s voices were purportedly on the unverified audio recordings leaked Thursday, which the Congress has cited as evidence of “horse-trading”. However, the FIR doesn’t mention any of their names in the ‘accused’ column, which says “unknown persons”.

The Congress has suspended Sharma and another rebel MLA, Vishvendra Pratap Singh, whose voices are alleged to be on the tapes.

“A team of SoG has left for Manesar. It will collect all evidence including voice samples from the MLAs who hatched the alleged conspiracy. Even as one team is already on the way, another has approached the court seeking mandatory permission for collecting the voice samples,” said a source in the Rajasthan government.

Also read: Sachin Pilot still on the hunt as numbers stack up against Gehlot govt in Rajasthan

‘Raids can’t topple govt’

Earlier this week, as the political crisis was deepening, the Enforcement Directorate had gone after CM Gehlot, raiding two of his aides on 13 July.

The Congress had slammed the BJP over the raids, with party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala saying: “I-T (Income Tax Department), ED, and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) are the BJP’s frontal departments… their raids cannot topple the Rajasthan government.”

But this was hardly the first time such a thing had happened. A prominent example was during the Rajya Sabha elections in 2017 — with senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s election from Gujarat at stake, the Income Tax department had conducted searches at multiple locations related to Karnataka energy minister D.K. Shivakumar in a tax evasion case.

At the time, Shivakumar was hosting Congress’ Gujarat MLAs at a resort near Bengaluru, after the party had accused the BJP of “stealing” its legislators.

Congress’ fresh allegations and demands

The Rajasthan Police’s SOG Friday received two complaints from Mahesh Joshi, chief whip of the Congress, regarding the audio clips leaked Thursday. Two FIRs have been registered under Section 124A (sedition) and 120B (criminal conspiracy). The authenticity of the clips is now being verified.

The Congress demanded that the SOG, if need be, should arrest Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

“Our demands are that the SOG (Special Operations Group) should file FIR against Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Bhanwar Lal Sharma, Sanjay Jain (intermediary), and if need be, he (Shekhawat) should be arrested immediately after issuing warrant,” Surjewala told the media outside the Fairmont hotel in Jaipur.

A source from the Gehlot camp added: “The MLAs are still inside the Manesar resort as the Haryana police under the BJP will not allow anyone to enter. However, now that this audio has surfaced, it is important to find out what all happened, and using this, a team will interact with the MLAs whose role is under the scanner. Before the BJP makes any move, we decided to send a team.”

Also read: Sachin Pilot says CM Gehlot protected Vasundhara Raje but only two BJP leaders defend her


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