Rajasthan rumble: Congress MLAs meet Gehlot to indicate support, Pilot & Co in Delhi to meet high command
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal openly acknowledged the crisis and asked when would the party leadership “wake up”.
The Congress government in Rajasthan seems to be on a shaky ground as the rift between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot has widened futher, sources say.
Several ministers and MLAs visited Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s home Sunday, indicating support to him amid speculation over the Pilot faction defecting or withdrawing their support from the government.
Some Congress MLAs, considered close to Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, who also heads the state Congress unit, have gone to Delhi, sources said.
Currently, Pilot is in Delhi to meet meet Congress high command and has claimed the support of 25 MLAs. According to sources, the MLAs supporting Pilot are lodged at different places, with about a dozen at ITC Grand in Gurugram, and a few others are at ITC Maurya in Delhi. According to reports, Sachin Pilot has also gone incommunicado since he is not taking phone calls from any Congress leader, including his friends in the party.
The situation has arisen amid allegations by Gehlot that the BJP is trying to lure Congress MLAs to topple the state government.
The BJP has dismissed the claim, saying the developments reflect a power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot, simmering since the Congress leadership in Delhi picked the more senior leader for the CM’s post.
Revenue Minister Harish Choudhary, Labour Minister Tikaram Jully, Health Minister Raghu Sharma were among those who visited the chief minister’s residence in Jaipur.
“We all are meeting the chief minister since yesterday to express faith and confidence in his leadership. The MLAs have confidence in Gehlot's leadership,” independent legislator Babulal Nagar said.
The crisis surfaced on Friday when the Rajasthan Police issued notices to Gehlot, Pilot and the government chief whip, seeking time from them to record their statements over an alleged bid to topple the state’s Congress government.
Sources close to Pilot said the letter from the Special Operations Group (SOG) had upset the Rajasthan Congress chief. Pilot, on Friday, was summoned by the Rajasthan Special Operations Group to appear for questioning in an investigation that began during the Rajya Sabha election in June, when allegations of the BJP poaching Congress MLAs emerged in the contest for three seats in the upper house of Parliament.
In a tweet Sunday, Gehlot stressed that the notices had gone to several people. He did not name Pilot in this connection, but said that a section of the media had interpreted the notices wrongly.
“The notices have been issued to the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, the government chief whip and some other MLAs. It is a part of the process,” SOG Additional Director General Ashok Rathore told PTI on Sunday. He said as the investigation proceeds, others could also be issued notices.
Babulal Nagar is among the legislators issued with the notice.
“The SOG has issued notice to me and has sought time. There are other MLAs who have received such notices,” Nagar told reporters outside the CM’s residence, where he had gone to meet him.
“We have faith in the leadership of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and we have expressed this to him,” he added.
Apart from the SOG action, the state’s Anti Corruption Bureau has also begun a probe into the alleged bid to destabilise the government.
The Congress government has distanced itself from the three independent MLAs -- Khushveer Singh, Omprakash Hudla and Suresh Tak -- who were named in the preliminary enquiry (PE).
Earlier, the government had the support of all 13 independent MLAs, who also voted for the Congress candidates in the Rajya Sabha elections last month.
At a press conference Saturday, Gehlot had blamed the BJP of trying to bring down his government and cited the FIR registered by the SOG. The FIR is based on an alleged tapped phone conversation between two men, said to be BJP members.
The Congress has 107 members in the state 200-MLA state assembly.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal also publicly acknowledged 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.
Worried for our party— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) July 12, 2020
Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables ?
(With PTI inputs)