Rajasthan: Reports suggest team Gehlot plans a big reveal on what they believe is proof of alleged deal-making by Sachin Pilot’s camp with the BJP.
Jaipur, July 17:
The Congress today released what it claims are transcripts of alleged audio conversations of deal-making between rebel MLAs and the BJP to try and dislodge the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan. Two rebel MLAs have been suspended by the Congress, which has demanded an investigation and police cases against MLAs allegedly caught on tape. This was hours before the Rajasthan High Court took up a petition by Sachin Pilot and rebel MLAs against disqualification notices served to them for “anti-party” activities.
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The Congress said two former Rajasthan ministers-turned rebels, Bhanwal Lal Sharma and Vishwendra Singh, had been caught on tape plotting with the BJP against their own government.
“The Modi govt and BJP are conspiring’ to grab power instead of fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said, reading out transcripts of audio conversations allegedly featuring rebel MLAs. “Sachin Pilot should clarify his stand,” he added.
Bhanwar Lal Sharma has refuted the allegations. “The audio that has gone viral is fake. They are trying to pressure MLAs using fake audios as the Chief Minister is in trouble,” the MLA said.
Sachin Pilot and 18 Congress rebels have challenged notices that warned them of disqualification if they did not satisfactorily explain by today why they defied the party.
Team Pilot is being represented in the case by two of India’s top lawyers, Mukul Rohatgi, appointed top government lawyer after the BJP came to power in 2014, and Harish Salve, who has been involved in high profile cases. They are pitted against the Congress’s Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
The rebels have argued that they can’t be served such notices when the Rajasthan assembly is not in session. They have also challenged a constitutional rule that allows the speaker to disqualify any member who has “voluntarily given up his membership” which, they say, is being misused only because they skipped two meetings.
If the rebel MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark will drop, making it easier for Mr Pilot’s chief adversary, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, to win a floor test. If the rebels can avoid being disqualified and are allowed to vote as Congress members, Ashok Gehlot’s government could fall. He needs 101 MLAs to vote for him in the 200-member assembly and claims he has the support of 106.
Last Friday, Sachin Pilot, the number two in the Rajasthan government, was served summons to answer questions in the investigation, which led to his revolt.
Sachin Pilot has since been removed as Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Congress chief by team Gehlot. But in Delhi, the Congress leadership continues its efforts to bring him around.
On Wednesday evening, a day before Sachin Pilot and other rebel MLAs went to court, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reportedly spoke to him on the phone. Her brother Rahul Gandhi also approached him through emissaries in a near-unprecedented outreach by the Gandhis. But Sachin Pilot has stayed cold to these overtures. Congress sources suspect he is buying time to reel in more Congress MLAs, enough to bring the Ashok Gehlot government down with the BJP’s help.