Crisis in Rajasthan: Congress claims MLAs' support, Sachin Pilot livid
18 months after coming to power, Congress could lose Rajasthan, courtesy the infighting between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy, Sachin Pilot. The furious young Turk claimed Gehlot doesn't have the strength to sustain the government, but Congress said 109 MLAs have sworn allegiance. Moreover, a crucial meeting is scheduled today. So, will Rajasthan really go the Madhya Pradesh way? Let's dig deep.
Interestingly, Pilot is why Congress saw a revival in the 2018 Assembly elections after a humiliating defeat in the previous state polls. After toiling for months, if not years, Pilot was hopeful to be made the CM but Congress' top-brass chose Gehlot, a seasoned politician, instead. The feud between Pilot and Gehlot has been simmering but last week, the 42-year-old put his foot down.
Recently, an investigation was launched into allegations that attempts were being made to topple Gehlot's government. The Special Operations Group summoned Pilot, infuriating him. Downplaying the development, Gehlot said he too was called in for interrogation but Pilot remained unconvinced. Gehlot was the in-charge of SOG and gave summons to himself as an "eyewash," Pilot opined. "Can't put up with his humiliation," he announced.
Thereafter, Pilot went incommunicado for two days putting up a camp in Delhi. Separately, his loyalists asked if this is how the party chooses to pay him back. Just when Gehlot suggested against reading too much into it, Pilot's office released a statement last night that the latter has the support of 30 MLAs. He wouldn't attend Monday's meeting either, the statement revealed.
Subsequently, Congress conducted an unprecedented press briefing at 2:30 am, informing that 109 MLAs are supporting Gehlot. "A total of 109 MLAs have signed a letter expressing their trust and support to the Rajasthan government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and leadership of Sonia Gandhi Ji and Rahul Gandhi Ji," Avinash Pandey, Congress in-charge, said. Few MLAs spoke to Gehlot too, he claimed.
Further, Pandey also informed that all MLAs have to attend today's meeting at Gehlot's residence. "Strict disciplinary action will be taken against any MLA who is absent without mentioning personal/special reason," he added. And this morning, he revealed Sonia Gandhi has asked him to address problems of MLAs, allies. "They can come and talk to me and we can work on it," he said.
Meanwhile, numbers show Congress has every reason to be worried. In the 200-member strong Assembly, Congress enjoys the support of 122 MLAs — 107 of its own, 10 independents, two each from BTP, CPM, and one RLD MLA. Separately, BJP has 72 MLAs and its ally RLTP has three MLAs. With the majority mark being 101, BJP needs the support of just 26 MLAs to return to power.
Naturally, the crisis sparked speculations that Pilot might follow Jyotiraditya Scindia's path, whose switch to BJP cost Congress dearly. BJP sources said the party was waiting for Pilot to make the "first move." "The game still does not appear to be set for the BJP," a person told Indian Express. But dismissing these rumors, Pilot told NDTV that he "will not join BJP."