The political impasse in Rajasthan dragged on for the fifth day, with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot launching a frontal attack on rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot, accusing him of “horsetrading”, and the rival camp responding by questioning the CM’s allegations and saying he was “deluding the public”.
Sources in the Congress also claimed that the rebellion led by Sachin Pilot had been brewing for long and that the notice issued to him by the Special Operations Group of the Rajasthan Police — in a probe into an alleged bid to topple the state government — may have forced him to play his hand immediately, without waiting for the required numbers to topple the government.
On Wednesday, Gehlot accused his former deputy of indulging in horse trading and being involved in the BJP’s “conspiracy” to topple the government.
Responding to the CM’s allegations, two Congress MLAs from the Pilot camp, Murari Lal from Dausa constituency and Ramesh Chand Meena from Sapotra, issued video statements on Wednesday, citing their own past when they had joined the Congress from the BSP.
In a video posted by Lokendra Singh, who manages media relations for Pilot, Murari Lal is seen as saying, “We are hurt at the way he levelled allegations of corruption against us today. I want to ask him: when we came to the Congress from the BSP during his previous government’s tenure, how much money did we take from him? Following that, he used to give speeches saying he hasn’t seen such honest people and MLAs. Those who were honest then, how did they become corrupt today.”
In a similar video, this one posted on Twitter, Meena, who was removed as Cabinet minister on Tuesday, too, took on Gehlot over his horse-trading allegation.
“Today he talks about crores of rupees being offered. I want to ask the Chief Minister that when we were in the BSP and joined the Congress, how much money did we get,” he said, while accusing Gehlot of not paying heed to their demands in Cabinet meetings and behaving in a “dictatorial” way.
Allegations of the BJP being involved in an alleged conspiracy to topple the government had come up during the Rajya Sabha elections last month, when Gehlot had moved swiftly to take party MLAs to a resort ahead of voting.
After the Congress went on to comfortably win the two Rajya Sabha seats from the state, Gehlot was accused by many of crying wolf, including Pilot, who said, “I had said it before the elections, which turned out to be right. It means that whatever was said, be it by anyone, was all baseless.”
On Wednesday, Gehlot said that the MLAs, who have rebelled now, were being herded elsewhere ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections last month: “(During Rajya Sabha elections) these people (rebel MLAs) were being sent at 2 am, and who was doing it and who was issuing clarifications… that nothing is happening? Those who were involved in the conspiracy themselves were giving clarifications.”
Gehlot added that the present crisis would have played out during the Rajya Sabha elections had the party not taken its MLAs to a resort.
To make their point that there were signs of a rebellion over the last few months, party sources point to the open confrontation by Vishvendra Singh — one of the MLAs in the Pilot camp who was removed as Tourism minister — with his department officials.
Singh’s discord with Department officials, including Shreya Guha, then principal secretary, Tourism, was known to all.
“Department officials are indifferent towards achieving high tourism growth and introducing new products, despite my constant prodding and initiatives…” Singh had tweeted on June 25. Earlier this month, Guha had been replaced.
A source in the Gehlot camp said, “They have been questioning the contents of the FIR. But what is mentioned in the FIR is now playing out in real, that’s the biggest authentication of the contents of the FIR.” He added that the raids by the IT and the ED on Gehlot aides only reinforced the claims made by Gehlot camp.
As Pilot counts his numbers, BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria backtracked from his demand, made a day earlier, of seeking a floor test. By evening, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that “BJP’s conspiracy has failed” and that it has “laid down its arms.”
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