Why "Operation Kamalam" is haunting Congress in Rajasthan
Despite being in majority, the Congress is afraid of probable "Operational Kamalam" ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. Its fear stems from Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat debacles. In order to ensure Congress’ victory and avert "horse-trading", CM Ashok Gehlot has resorted to “resort politics” in Jaipur.
Rajya Sabha election to three seats In Rajasthan is scheduled for June 19. The Congress is in power in the state and enjoys a comfortable majority. Yet the fear of poaching has forced the grand-old-party to resort to all possible measures. It has shifted all Congress legislators and those supporting the Ashok Gehlot government to resorts in Jaipur.
The Rajasthan Assembly’s chief whip has already filed an official complaint against attempts at “poaching” with the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB). And today, the Congress deployed its top guns in the state capital to mitigate any crisis that might surface in the coming week.
On Friday, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot directly accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of luring the Congress MLAs and the independents supporting his administration. Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, addressing the media at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jaipur, claimed that both the candidates fielded by the Congress will register a comfortable victory.
The Congress’ national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanded that the “(BJP chief) JP Nadda, Amit Shah and the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) should tell why the BJP has fielded two candidates in Rajasthan when they don’t have the numbers.”
“Is an attempt at defection through engineered and premeditated conspiracy exercise of democratic right (of the BJP),” Surjewala retorted when he was asked about the need of resorting to resort politics in Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, the BJP has vehemently rejected the allegation by the CM, the Deputy CM and the Congress party. As the leader of the opposition (LoP) put it, “the Congress is in power. What is the need of fortifying their own MLAs when they have the majority?”
The last resort: resort politics
The Rajasthan Congress legislators and the independent MLAs supporting the party were called in for a meeting at the Chief Minister’s Residence (CMR) on Wednesday. However, they were made to board a bus and shifted to Shiv Vilas Resort. The legislators left citing different reasons. The fortifications were further reinforced by Thursday
On Friday, while a chunk of the incumbent party MLAs were staying at the Shiv Vilas Resort, many others were shifted to Jaipur’s JW Marriott. CM Gehlot, Deputy CM Pilot and Surjewala addressed the media at this very hotel. Congress’s organisational general secretary and Rajya Sabha candidate KC Venugopal and in-charge of the Rajasthan unit Avinash Pande were also present at the hotel.
“Around 108-110 MLAs are already present at the resorts. Those who are missing have cited proper reasons for their absence,” a senior Congress leader told Asiaville. The resort politics will continue in Rajasthan until June 19 – the day of the Rajya Sabha voting.
While the Congress fears horse-trading, the BJP – which is in the opposition – is yet to assemble its MLAs.
“Despite being in opposition we have not hoarded our MLAs. They are in power and are claiming that they have the required numbers then what is the need of keeping the legislators in a resort?” senior Rajasthan BJP leader and the LoP, Gulab Chandra Kataria told Asiaville.
Congress claims “poaching” attempts made ahead of RS polls
The Congress has field candidates to only two of the three Upper House seats in the fray. Senior Congress leader KC Venugopal and Rajasthan Congress (RPCC) office-bearer Neeraj Dangi are contesting on the Congress’ ticket.
Of the 200 assembly seats, the Congress has 107 MLAs. The Gehlot government enjoys the support of 13 independent legislators, two MLAs of Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and one Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) legislator.
“We are in touch with the CPM and I will speak to Sitaram Yechury ji to seek the support of two of their MLAs,” the Chief Minister had said on June 12. If they manage to get the CPM’s support, then the Congress’ tally in Rajasthan will swell to 125 legislators.
Notably, each candidate in the electoral fray will need 51 votes to win.
Looking at the numbers, both Congress candidates are likely to register a thumping victory as the party has over 20 surplus votes.
Meanwhile, despite being in the Opposition, the BJP has fielded two candidates: Rajendra Gehlot and Omkar Singh Lakhawat. The saffron party – which was ousted from power in December 2018 – has 72 legislators and is supported by three MLAs of Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP). In total, they have 75 legislators in the Rajasthan Assembly.
To ensure the victory of its candidates, the BJP will need 102 votes.
In the Rajya Sabha election, the elected legislators vote for the candidates in the fray. The BJP doesn’t have the required numbers to ensure the victory of its second candidate unless it manages to get the support of all non-Congress MLAs and nine Congress legislators indulge in cross voting. But if the Congress MLAs indulge in cross-voting they could end up losing their membership.
The question is if the BJP doesn’t have enough numbers, why then did they field the second candidate?
“We have 24 extra votes,” the LoP and BJP leader Gulab Chandra Kataria told Asiaville. “The BJP has fielded the second candidate because we can still approach the independent legislators. As per the law, the independents are free to vote for anyone they want.” He further added that the BJP chose to field the second candidate to make the battle interesting.
On June 11, CM Gehlot had accused that the BJP had made attempts to poach their MLAs by offering them a “bribe” of Rs 10 crore.
However, during Friday’s presser, Gehlot dodged questions regarding the exact amount offered to the MLAs to switch sides, saying the matter is under investigation and hence he cannot reveal such details.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BJP and PM Modi are trying to dismantle the (state) governments. They did it in Madhya Pradesh and now they are trying to do it in Rajasthan,” Gehlot said lambasting the saffron party.
Meanwhile, in order to avert the attempts at “poaching”, the Congress party has filed a complaint with the anti-graft body of the state.
The Chief Whip of the Assembly and Congress leader Mahesh Joshi lodged a complaint with the ACB and the Special Operations Group (SOG) – the agency meant to investigate organised crimes.
“Several MLAs had complained about the poaching attempts to me and the Chief Minister. Based on their complaints, I have filed the complaint with the ACB and later with the SOG,” Joshi told Asiaville.
He further claimed that the attempts at poaching had begun right after the announcement of the Rajya Sabha elections in March.
However, the Rajasthan’s Chief Whip has not mentioned the BJP’s name in his complaint.
When asked about the number of MLAs who were approached and the amount offered, Joshi said, “I can’t reveal those details as the matter is under investigation and I don’t wish to undermine the authority of the investigative agencies.”
Meanwhile, responding to the allegations, the BJP said let the investigative agencies probe the matter so that the truth comes out.
“Let them investigate the matter and take appropriate action against those who are found guilty,” BJP leader Kataria said. “During the press conference, the Congress leaders didn’t reveal the amount being offered to the legislators which means that they are creating sensation just to hide their own weakness.”
The “coups” of Karnataka, MP and Gujarat haunts the Congress
Possibly, the lessons from Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat prompted the Congress to aggressively defend its fort in Rajasthan.
The BJP, through Operation Kamalam, had toppled the Congress- Janata Dal Secular (JDS) government in Karnataka. After a long political drama and legal battle, the Congress-JDS alliance was ousted from power and BJP’s BS Yediyurappa became the Chief Minister.
In March, when the threat of COVID-19 outbreak was looming over the country, the Kamal Nath-led Madhya Pradesh government was knocked down by the BJP. The coup was engineered and executed successfully by Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 MLAs from his camp.
Amid the global pandemic, the elected Congress government was ousted from power. While BJP vice president Shivraj Singh Chouhan became the MP Chief Minister, Scindia got the ticket to the Upper House.
In Gujarat, the Congress party is witnessing a bloodbath despite being in the Opposition. Since March, eight Congress MLAs have resigned from the party. Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki are in the electoral fray. However, after these resignations, it is highly unlikely that the Congress’ second candidate will manage to win the Rajya Sabha election scheduled for June 19th.
The successive blows have started haunting the Congress party and it is being careful not to take any unnecessary risk in Rajasthan. Possibly, also because former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s close aide KC Venugopal is contesting on the party ticket.