Till Friday, Ashok Singh and Bharat Malani were not prominent on the state’s political map. But on Friday, their arrest by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan Police propelled them to the limelight — even as state BJP leaders claimed to have little knowledge of their activities or of their membership.
The SOG picked up Singh and Malani for allegedly trying to topple the Ashok Gehlot-led state government by luring Congress and Independent MLAs. The SOG claims that Singh’s number was on surveillance “to check smuggling of illegal weapons” while Malani’s was on surveillance for “smuggling of explosive substances.”
Singh was arrested from Udaipur while Malani was arrested from Beawar, as per the SOG. Ashok Kumar Rathore, ADG, ATS and SOG, said their investigation was not connected to the complaint filed last month by the government’s chief whip Mahesh Joshi to the Anti-Corruption Bureau — in which he alleged attempts to destabilise the government. The ADG said the two are being questioned and will be produced before the court.
According to sources, Ashok Singh is from Banswara and is based in Udaipur and has also been associated with a fringe outfit called the Mewar Kshatriya Mahasabha for some time. BJP’s Banswara district president, Govind Singh Rao, however, said “Ashok is not an actively involved in party activities anymore.”
Malani, meanwhile, was formerly the state convenor of the BJP’s Industries Cell. BJP state president Satish Poonia told The Indian Express, that “presently, they are nowhere [in BJP]. Pehle kabhi rahe honge, meri jaankari mein nahi hai (I don’t have knowledge if they were [BJP members] earlier).” About Singh, Poonia said he isn’t “registered anywhere (with BJP) over the last few years.”