Updated: July 15, 2020 9:13:04 pm
Even as the Congress reiterated that the party has not closed its doors on rebel leader Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Wednesday took a jibe at his former deputy, saying that “speaking good English or being handsome is not everything”. Gehlot also accused Pilot, who was the former state Congress president, of being involved in horse-trading with the BJP to topple his government.
“Speaking good English, giving good bytes and being handsome is not everything. What do you have in your heart, what commitment do you have, this all is seen,” Gehlot said, without mentioning Pilot by his name.
On Tuesday, the Congress stripped Pilot of both his posts—as deputy chief minister and state PCC chief—three days after his showdown with CM Gehlot. The party also cracked the whip on Pilot’s loyalists: Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena were removed from the state cabinet, and the state presidents of the Youth Congress and Seva Dal were replaced. The decision was announced after Pilot and his MLAs skipped the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meet in the morning — the second in two days — at a hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur, where the Gehlot camp is keeping Congress and other supporting MLAs. The meetings concluded with CM Gehlot establishing his majority, and with a recommendation to take action against the 19 MLAs.
In an interaction with reporters in Jaipur earlier today, Gehlot alleged that the “former Pradesh Congress Committee president” was himself “doing the deal”. “We have the proof that horse trading was being committed. Money was offered. And who gave the clarification that nothing was happening? Those who were themselves part of the conspiracy are giving clarifications,” he said.
“Our deputy chief minister and PCC president himself was doing the deal and was giving statements that no horse trading was taking place. What clarifications are you giving when you yourself were involved in it,” Gehlot added.
Sachin Pilot rules out joining BJP
However, Pilot Wednesday reiterated that he is not joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and asserted that the speculation about his switching sides was being fuelled by certain leaders in Rajasthan to tarnish his image. Pilot had echoed similar views when talking to The Indian Express earlier.
“Some leaders in Rajasthan trying to fuel speculation that I am joining BJP but I am not doing so. I have worked very hard to bring Congress back in govt in Rajasthan,” Pilot was quoted as saying by PTI. “Such speculation is being fuelled to tarnish my image.”
Soon after he was sacked on Tuesday, Pilot had tweeted: “Satya ko pareshan kiya ja sakta hai, parajit nahi (Truth can be harassed, not defeated).” In another tweet at night, he said: “My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all those who have come out in my support today.”
सत्य को परेशान किया जा सकता है पराजित नहीं।
— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) July 14, 2020
The swiftness with which the Congress acted against Pilot has no parallel in the recent history of the party. The decision, described as “a difficult one” by one and all in the party, came after 72 hours of hard bargaining by both sides at the top level. Despite Pilot’s posturing that his fight is for “honor and justice” — in the context of the FIR and the SOG notice — sources said the post of the CM was at the heart of the negotiations. An MLA at the Manesar resort, who is with Pilot, told The Indian Express that they wanted Pilot as CM, replacing Gehlot.
Sources said Pilot had two main demands: replace Gehlot and make him the CM, or give a public commitment that he will be made CM at least a year before the next Assembly elections in 2023. The demands, according to a Congress leader who was part of the talks, were “unreasonable”. AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sources said, spoke to Pilot twice Tuesday morning as well. Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram, K C Venugopal too were in touch with him.
How did the crisis arise?
The latest tussle between CM Gehlot and Pilot emanated out of an FIR lodged by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the state police. On July 11, Rajasthan Police had arrested two members of the BJP for allegedly attempting to buy Congress and Independent lawmakers with offers of money. In the FIR, the police mentioned that phonetaps had shown that the “Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister (Sachin Pilot) are having a fight”, and the “Deputy CM says that he will be the CM”.
A few days ago, a close aide of Pilot had told The Indian Express that the leader was upset with the notice sent to him by the Rajasthan Police SOG. “A notice was issued to him under 124 B, which is sedition, and 120 A. Have you heard of any chief minister of an elected government issuing such a notice to the party President and Deputy CM…What if Pilot had been the Home Minister of the state and had issued such a notice to the Chief Minister? The Chief Minister would have dismissed him straight away,” a Congress state leader close to Pilot had said.
“This notice is basically issued just to show the world that the Chief Minister can do whatever he wants and that he can discredit, humiliate, allege and treat the party president and Deputy CM as a non-entity. It is being done primarily to put him under surveillance legally and cause stress,” the leader had said.
The sources close to Pilot had said the notice was “unwarranted” and “no self-respecting person would tolerate it.” SOG officials, however, said notices had been sent to over a dozen MLAs, mainly independent MLAs, apart from the CM and Deputy CM to record their statements.
Stop accepting BJP ‘hospitality’, come back, Congress tells Pilot
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala, who was sent to Jaipur along with Ajay Maken as central observers, today asked dissident leader Pilot to stop accepting a BJP government’s “hospitality” if he does not wish to join that party and “return home” in Jaipur to discuss grievances. The reference was to reports that the MLAs close to the rebel leader are holed up in hotels in Gurgaon of Haryana, where the BJP is in power. He also repeated the party’s appeal to Pilot, asking him to “come back to the family”.
“I have seen Pilot’s statement in the media that he will not join the BJP. If you do not want to go to the BJP, stop accepting the hospitality of the BJP immediately,” he told reporters outside a Jaipur hotel where party MLAs backing CM Gehlot are lodged since Monday. He told reporters that Pilot should free the Congress MLAs who are staying in two luxury hotels and under the security of the Haryana Police.
Avinash Pande, the AICC in-charge of Rajasthan, tweeted that “The party’s doors have not closed for Pilot. May God give him good sense and he realises his mistake. I pray that he comes out of the BJP’s illusory trap”.
19 rebel MLAs face disqualification from assembly, Rajasthan Speaker issues notices
Rajasthan Speaker has issued notices to Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs after the party sought their disqualification from the state assembly. Sacked deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and the other MLAs were asked to respond to the notices by Friday.
The Congress complaint, and the Speaker’s notice late on Tuesday (July 14) night came after Pilot and the lawmakers supporting him skipped the CLP meetings on July 13 and 14. The notice has been served under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, popularly known as the anti-defection law. The Congress in its complaint to the Speaker has accused the rebel MLAs of attempting to jump parties.
The Congress also cited past Supreme Court rulings to seek their disqualification. Among those sent notices are Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena, who were sacked along with Pilot from the state cabinet after their rebellion against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Cong dissolves district, block committees in Rajasthan
The Congress has dissolved its all district and block committees in Rajasthan in a bid to revamp the state unit of the party. Announcing the decision, Avinash Pande said new committees will be formed soon.
The move is considered a step forward in removing all Pilot’s men holding party positions at the grassroots level. “The AICC has decided to dissolve all District Congress Committees and Block Congress Committees of Rajasthan Pradesh with immediate effect. The process of formation of new committees will begin soon,” Pande said on Twitter.
With PTI inputs
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