Rajasthan: Sachin Pilot approaches court, Harish Salve is his lawyer
The rift between rebel Sachin Pilot and his party Congress widened as the former approached Rajasthan High Court challenging Speaker CP Joshi's disqualification notice, that was served on Wednesday. If BJP's role in this fiasco wasn't already clear, the choice of lawyers — Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi — leaves little doubts about the saffron party's eagerness to bring down the government.
Background: War between Pilot and Gehlot led to former's sacking
Pilot has been camping in NCR since last week after his ties with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot nosedived. With 20 MLAs supporting him, he said Gehlot lacks numbers in the 200-member Assembly. After initially trying to placate him, Congress snapped relations by sacking him from the posts of Deputy CM and the state party president. However, Pilot maintained he was still with Congress.
MLAs were served notices, asked to defend themselves by Friday
Yesterday, Speaker Joshi served notices to 20 odd MLAs asking them to respond by Friday, explaining why they shouldn't be disqualified. The Speaker claimed they were involved in anti-party activities and also reminded that they missed two crucial meetings. To ensure the note doesn't skip their attention, it was sent via e-mail, SMS, WhatsApp, and pasted on the doors of their houses as well.
Disqualification of MLAs will mean upper hand for Gehlot
If the disgruntled MLAs, who opine Gehlot humiliated Pilot, are disqualified, it will give Congress an edge. However, if they are allowed to vote during a floor test, Gehlot may lose his chair. Tellingly, Congress' claims that the senior politician has 106 MLAs was contested by Pilot. In fact, Pilot's team has been reportedly trying to poach more members from the opposite camp.
Interestingly, Pilot's choice of lawyers reveals a lot
Now, Congress is convinced that Pilot's rebellion has BJP's support, despite the leader reiterating that neither is he joining the saffron party, nor is he working against his own. However, the fact that Salve, who represented India at ICJ during Kulbhushan Jadhav's hearing, and Rohatgi, Centre's top lawyer, are fighting for Pilot makes Congress' claim rather believable. Meanwhile, Abhishek Manu Singhvi will represent Congress.
Congress is also unhappy that Pilot is camping in Haryana
Congress has other reasons to believe BJP is hand-in-glove with Pilot. Along with his loyalists, he is staying at a hotel in Manesar, Haryana, governed by BJP. Yesterday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asked Pilot to reject BJP's "hospitality" and return home. "Come back to your family, sit with your family and place your views before the family," Surjewala urged Pilot.
Khattar denied links with Pilot, said hotels "open for all"
Further, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who earlier expressed concern over the crisis in Rajasthan, also took a jibe at Pilot by implying that Manesar is a "comfort zone." He pointed out that the place remains under "BJP's watchful eye." Wading into the controversy, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar said, "Private hotels are open for everyone, anyone can stay there."
Hearing deferred after Pilot's team sought to amend petition
Notably, the case in Rajasthan HC was scheduled for a 3 pm hearing but was deferred. Abhay Kumar Bhandari, the lawyer of Congress Chief Whip, Manoj Joshi, said the other side wants to amend its plea. "The court has given them time. Next hearing will be held when they will file the amended petition," he told ANI.