If the Ashok Gehlot government’s decision to withdraw the sedition charge from three FIRs lodged by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan Police in connection with the alleged attempt to topple his government was to placate Sachin Pilot and the rebel Congress MLAs, it has not had the desired effect, it appears.
The decision to drop the sedition charge and transfer the cases to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) comes days after Gehlot said that he will welcome back the rebel MLAs if the party leadership “forgives them”.
The development, in that context, was read as a softening of position by the Gehlot side.
Sources in the Pilot camp told The Indian Express that the decision is a result of realisation that the charge will not stand legal scrutiny. Bhanwar Lal Sharma, one of the rebel MLAs, had moved Rajasthan High Court last month seeking quashing of the FIR against him, or transfer of the probe to NIA.
“They (state government) have very conveniently transferred the cases from SOG to ACB,” a leader close to Pilot said. “They have maintained the FIR just to keep the sword hanging. It took the government 24 days to drop the charge…it was done because there is a realisation that the sedition charge will not stand (in court), not out of empathy or warm-heartedness.”
Former state minister and MLA from Dausa, Murari Lal Meena, also in Pilot camp, told The Indian Express: “When the case of issuing notices to a former deputy CM on sedition charges was about to come up for hearing in HC, the government thought it prudent to avoid the embarrassment and withdrew the charge after 25 days. The judge would have taken the state government to task for this preposterous action; therefore the government has backtracked in a face-saving gesture.”
Asked whether any reconciliation efforts are on, a rebel party MLA said he got a text message from Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi at 7 pm on Wednesday, asking him to attend a CLP meeting at 8 pm. “They know it is impossible for us to attend the meeting, but they are doing it (holding the meet and asking the rebels to attend it) to show that we are not attending meetings…and you are asking about reconciliation.”