Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have been briefed about the situation, sources said. “We are confident we won’t allow a Madhya Pradesh situation to take place again,” a senior leader in the party said.
New Delhi: Sachin Pilot, the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, revolted against the Congress leadership today, setting the party up for another state collapse just three months after it lost Madhya Pradesh to the BJP. Mr Pilot, who claims the support of 30 MLAs, has refused to attend a key meeting of Congress MLAs called by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tomorrow, a huge sign that he may be next to exit after Jyotiraditya Scindia. He has not been granted a meeting with the Gandhis so far. His aides do not deny a dialogue with the BJP though they say negotiations are not active.
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“Rajasthan Deputy CM & Congress leader Sachin Pilot not to attend Congress Legislative Party meeting scheduled to be held tomorrow. Pilot says Ashok Gehlot Govt in minority after over 30 Congress and some independent MLAs have pledged support to Sachin Pilot,” message from Mr Pilot’s office read.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is holding a a legislature party meeting at his residence. Another meeting will be held tomorrow. Mr Gehlot’s aides earlier said that while Mr Pilot was invited to the meetings, they have failed to contact him.
Earlier this evening, the Congress paraded the three MLAs who were in Delhi on Saturday and were known as loyalists of Mr Pilot. All three said they supported the Ashok Gehlot government. One of them, Rohit Bohra, had earlier told NDTV that his visit to Delhi was “personal” and the other two MLAs also had their own errands.
Summons to Mr Pilot to appear for questioning in an investigation into complaints of attempts to destabilise the state government ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections proved the tipping point for him. “Nobody wants to leave his home, but can’t continue to put up with this kind of humiliation; my MLAs and supporters are extremely hurt and I will have to listen to them,” he told me on the phone earlier this evening,” senior journalist and political analyst. Javed Ansari wrote in his blog.
Sources said the Congress central leaders are upset with Mr Gehlot for issuing orders to question Mr Pilot, putting the government at risk in one of the few states the party is in power. We are confident we won’t allow a Madhya Pradesh situation again,” a senior party leader said.
The BJP has ruled out offering the Chief Minister post to Mr Pilot, sources said, because of numbers and internal leadership issue. The party needs the support of another 35 MLAs to form government. In terms of the top post, the biggest claim is of Vaundhara Rajee, the BJP’s tallest leader in the state.
Mr Gehlot has pointed out that he has also received summons for questioning as well as the Chief Whip and it is their duty to cooperate with the police. “No one is above the law,” sources quoted him as saying. His claims have been dismissed as eyewash by Mr Pilot’s supporters, who point out that it is Mr Gehlot who controls the home ministry and therefore, the Special Operations Group.
Sachin Pilot — a contender for the Chief Minister’s post after the Congress victory in Rajasthan in 2018 — was given the post of the Deputy Chief Minister. But it was the award of the state Congress chief’s post to him in recognition of his work in rebuilding the state party that has been irking Mr Gehlot. With him holding the post for six years, there have been talks of removing him too, sources said.
The Congress holds 107 seats in the 200-strong Rajasthan Assembly and has the support of 12 Independent candidates. In addition, five MLAS from other parties — the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the CPM and the Bharatiya Tribal Party – support Mr Gehlot, who clamied yesterday that the BJP was offering up to Rs 15 crore to MLAs to switch sides.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Nath government collapsed in March when Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP with 22 MLAs after a long-drawn power tussle between the party’s old guard and the new. “Sad to see my erstwhile colleague, @SachinPilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan CM, @ashokgehlot51. Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the @INCIndia,” Mr Scindua tweeted today.