Ending a month-long political drama in Rajasthan, the Ashok Gehlot government on Friday won a confidence motion in the state Assembly through a voice vote. Gehlot said his win was “a message to the forces that are trying to destabilise elected governments in the country”. Now back in Jaipur, Sachin Pilot said that with the trust vote, “all speculations have ended”.
Gehlot had announced that he would move a confidence motion soon after the faction led by him and the supporters of Pilot met on Thursday.
Moving the Motion of Confidence, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal compared the Centre to Mughal Emperor Akbar and the Congress government to Maharana Pratap. “Akbar ran a campaign to rule all of India. He conquered Panipat, Gwalior, Mandwa, Gujarat, Bihar, Bengal. But when he reached Mewar in 1576, Maharana Pratap ne naakon chane chabwa diye (made him struggle). In the same way, the Central government weaved a conspiracy and toppled Congress governments in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, but when they reached Rajasthan, the warriors of Rajasthan, under the leadership of Ashok Gehlot, taught them a lesson.”
In his address, the CM said “the beauty” with which the Congress’s troubles had ended had dealt a setback to “Amit Shah and you (the BJP)”.
Pilot, who lost his deputy chief ministership and the post of state Congress chief during the course of his rebellion starting July 11, on Friday conceded his front-row seat in the Assembly as well. Seated now in the second row and closer to Opposition benches, instead of the bench next to the CM, Pilot told the Assembly, “This is the border between the ruling party and the Opposition. And it is the strongest warrior who is sent to the border.” Gehlot joined other MLAs in thumping the desk to cheer the remark.
With Opposition MLAs naming him and hinting at his revolt again and again, Pilot said, “Whatever ailment we had, we described it to the doctor, and after treatment, we are all united here.”
Other Pilot supporters too saw their seats in the House changed — Vishvendra Singh, who was among the 18 MLAs with Pilot and was removed as Tourism Minister, was shifted from the front row to the last, while Ramesh Meena, who lost his Food and Civil Supplies portfolio, now sits in the sixth row. The seating arrangement was partly changed due to Covid.
“From the front row to now right at the back in the Assembly today. Back-benchers are more naughty, it’s a given! Just saying,” Vishvendra Singh later tweeted.
Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the Congress was wrong in blaming the BJP for its problems. “We have 72 MLAs plus three others (of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party). How can we topple the government?” he said. Without naming Pilot, he said a state president of the Congress had worked hard for six years and won the election for the party. “What happened afterwards?”
Kataria also mentioned the harsh words used by Gehlot against Pilot, saying, “If you say you have not seen your Deputy CM’s face for 18 months, haven’t talked to him for 18 months, (that he) is a naakara (good for nothing)… did I make you say this?”
As Gehlot stood up to object, the BJP leader said, “Your dukaandari in the name of Mahatma Gandhi won’t run for long”, setting off a heated exchange with Congress MLAs.
The CM said Kataria was probably not kept in the loop by the BJP’s central leadership and state party president Satish Poonia and Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore on its plans. “You’re innocent. Tall central leaders of your party involved them, but did not involve you.”
Accusing the Centre of targeting Opposition governments, Gehlot said, “… democracy is in danger… Two people are ruling… Is toppling government democracy? I have been in politics for 50 years, I am worried.”
The CM dismissed allegations that MLAs’ phones were tapped and defended his statement that people will “gherao” the Raj Bhawan to demand a House session as merely “political language”.
Among those watching the developments from the Governor’s gallery in the Assembly, which was adjourned till August 21 after the trust vote, were Congress Rajasthan in-charge Avinash Pande, Randeep Surjewala and Tarun Kumar. Later in the day, the Congress MLAs with Gehlot moved out of a hotel where they were sequestered — having spent the last 33 days in one or the other resort.