AMID INDICATIONS that the 18 rebel Congress MLAs in Rajasthan, led by former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, may return to the party fold, the effort in the BJP now is to keep its flock together ahead of the Assembly session on August 14.
While the BJP moved 19 MLAs to Porbandar over the weekend, all its 72 MLAs are expected to attend its legislature party meeting in Jaipur on Tuesday.
The BJP’s national leadership is learnt to have cautioned the state leaders to stay united and asked former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who has maintained a distance from the activities in Jaipur, to ensure that the party’s MLAs remain together.
Raje, who has been in the national capital for the last two days and has held meetings with BJP chief J P Nadda and general secretary (organisation) B L Santosh, is learnt to have told the leadership that the state unit has been “sidelining her and did not keep her in the loop”.
Party sources said Raje clarified to the BJP leadership that she did not have any intention to hurt the party’s interest, but wanted the state leadership to coordinate with her.
Raje, according to sources close to her, has maintained that Pilot would not have the numbers to pull down the Ashok Gehlot government, and any support to the Congress rebel camp would hurt the BJP. With Pilot now talking to the Congress leadership, the Raje camp is claiming that her stand has been vindicated.
However, BJP leaders in Rajasthan have maintained that they never sought to pull down the government. “We have been maintaining that it’s an internal issue of the Congress, and we have just been watching as an Opposition party. We never had anything to do with it and we never even wanted to make the effort to form the government. Because we did not have, and we do not have, the numbers,” Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Gulab Chand Kataria, told The Indian Express.
“We will see that all our MLAs are here tomorrow for the legislature party meeting. We are confident that all of us are together. But we will wait for the Supreme Court’s order on the BSP MLAs joining the Congress, and for the developments in the Congress and its supporting parties. We will plan our action accordingly,” he said.
Kataria maintained that the state party unit has always kept Raje in the loop. “I speak to her everyday. I spoke to her today also. She told me that she is waiting for the Covid test report as one of her household staff tested positive. She will be here for the meeting if the test report is negative,” Kataria said.
Party sources said the national leadership has asked Raje to ensure that the MLAs loyal to her attend the meeting. According to sources, Raje, who had sought meetings with the top leadership, was keen to clarify her stand, following speculation that she was helping the Gehlot government. Some state party leaders are learnt to have complained to the leadership; Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) leader Hanuman Beniwal, a BJP ally, had publicly accused her of helping Gehlot.
“Raje made it clear to the leadership that she is bound by the party’s ideology. She explained that she deliberately stayed away from Jaipur and remained in Dholpur in order to avoid meeting her own MLAs, which would have triggered speculation that she was trying to turn them against the state leaders,” said a source.
Raje is learnt to have gifted Nadda a book on Ram Mandir, a gesture that some party leaders have interpreted as an attempt to convince the leadership that she remains close to the party’s ideology and its causes.
The party’s national leadership is learnt to have sought Raje’s intervention when some of the MLAs refused to go to Porbandar. Besides its 72 MLAs in the 200-member Assembly, the BJP has the support of 3 RLP members.
Kataria said the MLAs who were taken to Porbandar would return by Tuesday afternoon. He admitted that the party feared an attempt by the Congress to poach its MLAs. “We have seen what Gehlot has done to the BTP (Bharatiya Tribal Party) MLAs , and we know how he has lured the independent MLAs. So we had to take precautions. Don’t we have to prepare before the battle,” he said.
Earlier, BTP MLA Rajkumar Roat had alleged that he was held hostage by the state police.
SC to hear pleas on ‘merger’ today
New Delhi: The Supreme Court will take up for hearing on Tuesday petitions regarding “merger” of six Rajasthan MLAs elected on BSP tickets with the Congress.
BJP MLA Madan Dilawar has filed a plea against Rajasthan High Court’s order refusing to interfere with the Speaker’s order recognising the merger. The HC also refused to suspend voting rights of the MLAs. Last week, the MLAs moved the Supreme Court, urging it to transfer to itself Dilawar’s petition against the merger.
PIL for stay on merger
Jaipur: A PIL filed in the HC has sought a stay on the merger of the six BSP MLAs with Congress. Filed by lawyer Hemant Nahta on August 4, it was to be heard by a division bench Monday, but the hearing couldn’t take place. It is expected to be taken up later. —ENS