Updated: July 12, 2020 10:19:05 pm
The crisis within the Congress-led Rajasthan government deepened as Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot Sunday claimed that Ashok Gehlot’s government is in the minority after over 30 party and some independent MLAs have pledged support to him.
Pilot, who is also the state Congress president, has decided to skip the Congress Legislative Party meeting scheduled to be held Monday morning in Jaipur.
Breaking: Rajasthan Deputy CM @SachinPilot not to attend Congress Legislative Party meeting scheduled to be held tomorrow. Pilot says @ashokgehlot51 Govt in minority after over 30 Congress and some independent MLAs have pledged support to Pilot@IndianExpress
— Hamza Khan (@Hamzwa) July 12, 2020
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Gehlot has summoned a meeting of all party MLAs tonight in a bid to project a show of strength. Throughout the day several ministers and MLAs visited Gehlot’s home amid a political firestorm in the state. Independent MLAs supporting the Gehlot government have also been invited.
The latest flashpoint in the tussle between Gehlot and Pilot has alarmed the Congress leadership, and some Congress leaders have begun to recall the manner in which the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia had led to the collapse of the government of Chief Minister Kamal Nath just three months ago.
In a shot in the arm for CM Gehlot, three Congress MLAs, who had left for Delhi, said they would follow the party line. Addressing a press conference, Rohit Bohra, Danish Abrar and Chetan Dudi said they would do whatever the top leadership told them. The MLAs said their visit to Delhi was a normal affair and the media should not speculate over it. “We are with the Congress Party which gave us tickets. The media trial, which is going on, has no sense. We are soldiers of the party and will remain so for lifetime,” Bohra said.
Earlier in the day, senior leader Kapil Sibal was the first from within the Congress to publicly acknowledge the crisis, saying he was worried for the party. Seeking a quick resolution of the “crisis”, he asked when would the party leadership “wake up”. “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables,” he said on Twitter.
— Jyotiraditya M. Scindia (@JM_Scindia) July 12, 2020
Even Scindia took a dig at his former party, saying the sidelining of Pilot showed talent and capability find little credence in the Congress.
“Sad to see my erstwhile colleague, Sachin Pilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot. Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the Congress,” Scindia said.
Trying to play down reports of factionalism in its Rajasthan unit, Congress general secretary in-charge for the state Avinash Pande said the government in the state was stable and would last its full term.
Pande told PTI all party MLAs in the state were in touch with him. Pande, however, said he was trying to reach out to Pilot and left messages for him. “All Congress MLAs are in touch with me and the government in Rajasthan is stable and will last its full term,” he said.
Reports of the crisis were reignited after the state police, which arrested two BJP members for allegedly trying to lure away Congress and Independent MLAs with offers of Rs 20-25 crore each, lodged an FIR stating phone taps mentioned how the “Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are having a fight” and “Deputy CM says that he will be the CM” – a reference to the power tussle within the ruling Congress between Gehlot and Pilot.
Senior police officers said statements of both the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister would be recorded in the matter.
On Pilot visiting Delhi, the persons in the conversation, according to the FIR, said “big political decisions are being taken in Delhi and things will move quickly after June 30… that’s when his stars will shine and he will take oath 5-10 days later”.
Addressing a press conference from his residence, Gehlot attacked the BJP, saying its leaders “have crossed all limits of humanity” during the pandemic and were playing “a game” on instructions from their central leadership. He also took a swipe at Pilot, reigniting the debate within the Congress. “Who doesn’t want to be CM? We too may have 5-7 people who may be contenders for CM and may also have the capability and talent. But only one can be CM. And then, after that everyone calms down,” he said while responding to a question.
Worried for our party
Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables ?
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) July 12, 2020
Earlier in June, Gehlot had targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah over alleged attempts to destabilise the state government during a pandemic.
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