New Delhi: The BJP’s bid to dislodge the Ashok Gehlot government on the floor of the Rajasthan assembly fell flat with the sudden reunion of Congress MLA Sachin Pilot and party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gadhi Vadra Monday, four days before the House session on 14 August.
The BJP’s strategy, party sources said, failed because of several reasons, including former CM Vasundhara Raje’s “non-cooperation” with the high command in toppling the Congress government, BJP’s own divided house in the state and Union Minister Gajendra Shekhawat’s little influence over Gehlot camp MLAs.
Pilot’s inability to secure support of more than 22 MLAs, and the way Gehlot guarded his own MLAs also left no window for the BJP to turn around the Rajasthan crisis in its favour, the way it did in Madhya Pradesh, sources added.
In the end, Gehlot and Raje emerged as the real Chanakyas of Rajasthan in this intense power struggle, they added.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajasthan assembly Gulab Chand Kataria told ThePrint the crisis was initiated due to Pilot’s rebellion against Gehlot government and it was the internal matter of the Congress.
“BJP does not have enough numbers to form the government. In their internal infighting, we were just darshak (viewers), we were watching the internal drama of the Congress. Now it seems, this is the interval time. Both have united again for immediate political need. Par sirf samay batayega ki dono ke dil milenge ya nahi (Only time will tell if both their hearts will unite),” he added.
The state BJP had called a meeting Tuesday of all their 72 MLAs to take stock of the new development and to discuss its strategy before the House session begins, but later postponed it to 13 August in the wake of Janmashtami.
After the reunion, which has set the stage for reconciliation between Pilot and the Congress, it is now almost certain that Gehlot will have the last laugh in a test of strength on the floor of the House. The Congress has 107 MLAs in a House of 200.
Perfect strategy, but didn’t yield results like MP
A BJP leader, who didn’t want to be named, said it was a perfect strategy to dislodge the Gehlot government with support of one of his disgruntled colleagues, Pilot, just like in Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP toppled the Kamal Nath-led Congress government with the help of disenchanted leader Jyotiraditya Scindia in March.
The BJP saw chances to topple the Gehlot government in March itself, the leader said, adding that it was since then that the party started nurturing Pilot’s disenchantment. Pilot was in touch with several Delhi BJP leaders too, he said.
When Pilot was sent a notice in July by the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operation Group to record his statement in connection with the arrest of two BJP leaders for their alleged attempt to topple the Congress government, he got a chance to avenge his humiliation.
Pilot then moved his loyalists to a hotel in Manesar. Following this, Gehlot also moved his MLAs to a Jaipur hotel, sealed the Delhi-Jaipur border and even installed jammers at the hotel, making it impossible for Pilot or the BJP to secure support of more MLAs from his camp to reach the majority mark in the House.
“There was a huge gap of numbers required to dislodge the Gehlot government, unlike in MP where the difference was only 7 MLAs. But a striking difference in MP was that (chief minister) Shivraj (Singh Chouhan) was on board from day one, unlike Vasundhara Raje, who was not on the same page with the high command about dislodging the Gehlot government,” said the leader.
Raje was not taken into confidence
BJP sources told ThePrint the initial planning of providing tactical support to Pilot was made in Delhi in March, and only three BJP leaders of Rajasthan were kept in the loop.
The plan was that Pilot will secure the support of at least 30 MLAs, and the BJP will lend support to him. But in this planning, Raje was not taken into confidence, sources added.
Raje maintained silence throughout the crisis, before finally speaking on 18 July, saying it is unfortunate that the people of the state are paying the price for the discord within the Congress. She did not even take part in the meetings of the core group of Rajasthan BJP.
In the first week of this month, Raje came to Delhi to prove her point. She met party national president J.P. Nadda and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and complained about how state BJP leaders were “spreading propaganda” about her and maligning her image for the last one month.
Raje also said she wasn’t taken into confidence about the plan, sources said.
“Vasundhara ji is a two-term chief minister and the most popular leader in the state. Despite the anti-incumbency, she got reasonably good numbers in the assembly poll compared to Gehlot. In the 2013 election, Vasundhara got 163 seats (Congress in 2018 polls got 107 seats). She has considerable influence over MLAs. Without taking her on board, it was not possible to dislodge Gehlot’s government,” said a second BJP leader.
“Few Delhi leaders thought that they have the support of MLAs. This illusion has been cleared now. People make leaders, not the party’s high command,” said an MLA, who is close to Raje.
The MLA added that without even being in power, Raje has shown that she can’t be taken for granted in Rajasthan politics.
Earlier, Raje had halted the appointment of Shekhawat as the BJP state president during the 2018 assembly elections, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah was interested in sending him to Jaipur to head the state unit.
Shekhawat’s little influence didn’t help BJP
Shekhawat, who is the Union Jal Shakti Minister and an MP from Jodhpur, could have emerged as the new undisputed leader of Rajasthan BJP if he would have secured support of Gehlot camp MLAs.
Besides Shekhawat, the BJP has developed a battery of leaders in Rajasthan like Satish Punia, Rajendra Gehlot, Om Mathur, but none of them could garner the support of the MLAs.
A second BJP MLA in Rajasthan told ThePrint: “The Rajasthan situation was complex. There was uncertainty among Pilot camp MLAs about re-election. Ashok Gehlot is not politically weak yet and more MLAs can only muster courage to switch sides if they find their chance of reelection bright with strong BJP leaders.
“Raje was not leading from the front and they were unsure about their future under Shekhawat’s leadership. This was the reason the BJP could not manage more MLAs from the Gehlot camp to topple his government, the way they did it in MP,” he added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.