Jaipur: After bringing his own Congress government on the verge of collapse, former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot has exposed factionalism in the BJP.
Two senior BJP MLAs considered close to former chief minister Vasundhara Raje have taken exception to Pilot’s remarks insinuating a coziness between Raje and Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, but they are so far the only BJP leaders to speak out on the issue.
In a joint statement, the two MLAs — former Speaker Kailash Meghwal and Pratap Singh Singhvi — called Pilot’s comments despicable and that they reflected his frustration.
“Pilot has still not been able to forget the pain of his mother’s defeat against Raje in the assembly election of 2003,” they said.
They alleged that he created conflict in his own party and is now unable to find a way out of the deadlock and hence making desperate comments.
Pilot slams Raje
In a bid to counter Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s allegation that he (Pilot) was conspiring with the BJP to bring down the government, Pilot suggested that the two rivals — Gehlot and Raje — now greatly helped each other.
Pilot accused Gehlot of ensuring that Raje retained her government bungalow. “Raje had allotted herself a government bungalow in Jaipur for life in 2017,” he alleged. “The high court had cancelled this order by her government but instead of getting the bungalow vacated, the state government challenged the HC order in the Supreme Court.”
Pilot, who has been camping with his supporters in a hotel in Manesar, Haryana, cited another example. “We campaigned against the mining scam of her government and forced her to cancel all mining leases,” he alleged. “But after coming to power, instead of taking action, Gehlot too has been treading the same path.”
Silence in BJP exposes rift
Barring Meghwal and Singhvi, however, none of the other state BJP leaders have condemned Pilot’s verbal attack on Raje, exposing the rift in the party.
Rather, they have been praising Pilot and other Congress MLAs from his camp on social media for taking on Gehlot and encouraging them for trying to topple the Congress government in the state.
Union minister Gajendra Singh tweeted ‘Auto Pilot vs Fighter Pilot’ in response to the crisis.
Auto Pilot vs Fighter Pilot#RajasthanPoliticalCrisis
— Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (@gssjodhpur) July 16, 2020
Even Deputy Leader of the Opposition Rajendra Rathore, once considered Raje’s most trusted lieutenant and who would jump to her defence in the past, has been busy encouraging Pilot rather than criticising him for attacking her.
लोहिया जी ने सही कहा था ………?
— Rajendra Rathore (@Rajendra4BJP) July 16, 2020
Pilot’s indirect attack on the former chief minister, however, is not difficult to understand. Unlike her vocal colleagues, Vasundhara Raje has not reacted to the ongoing political crisis in the state. She has been keeping a stony silence on slugfest between Pilot and Gehlot, which is construed as her disapproval to Pilot’s possible entry into BJP or forming government with its help.
Though Pilot has said he is not joining the BJP, even securing the party’s help would be nearly impossible for him unless it is able to bring Raje on board.
The Gehlot-Raje bonhomie
The rumours of her bonhomie with Gehlot have been around for a while and it is believed that she is not just against Pilot’s entry into the BJP but might also thwart his attempts to topple the Gehlot government.
Hanuman Beniwal of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), a BJP ally, made an allusion to this Thursday, accusing Raje of asking Congress MLAs close to her to support Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and “maintain distance from Sachin Pilot”.
Despite some senior leaders from her camp having deserted her, Raje still enjoys considerable support among BJP legislators in the state. Besides, she may have been down after the defeat in the 2018 assembly elections but is not out. She is still the only mass leader of the party and commands a large following, especially among women.
Therefore, after she was sidelined in the party and rarely involved in key decisions, state leaders couldn’t muster courage to ignore her opinion in this matter.
A meeting of senior party leaders to discuss precisely this matter had to be postponed because she was in Dholpur. Despite repeated calls, Raje did not leave her palace in Dholpur.