Rajasthan crisis: Sachin Pilot v/s Ashok Gehlot in HC today
On Monday, the Rajasthan High Court took up a plea filed by former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 of his loyalists challenging the disqualification notices served to them by Speaker CP Joshi last week, soon after the desert state plunged into a political crisis. CM Ashok Gehlot has been pushing for their disqualification, as it would help him retain his chair.
Backstory: "Humiliated" after being summoned, Pilot turned a rebel
Pilot, who never shared the best of ties with Gehlot, turned rebellious earlier this month after being summoned for interrogation. Taking some of his aides, he camped in Manesar, Haryana, while rejecting Congress' overtures. Reportedly, the 42-year-old wanted nothing less than the CM post. Last week, Congress sacked him from two positions, but Pilot announced he won't dump the party, and won't join BJP.
Pilot took Gehlot to court, CM ordered a probe
Pilot's decision to challenge the disqualification notices in HC was seen as a "point of no return" by Congress. Around the same time, Gehlot launched an investigation into an alleged "deal" between rebels and BJP to topple his government. Citing leaked audio tapes, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was involved. But the leader from Rajasthan denied the allegation.
Not my voice: Gajendra Singh Shekhawat distanced himself from showdown
Shekhawat, who was named in an FIR as well, said the voice in the tapes wasn't his. "The person who is being referred to as 'Gajendra' has the accent of a man from the Sri Ganganagar region while I speak with a heavy Jodhpur Marwari accent," he told TOI. He added that rather than verifying the clips' authenticity, Gehlot is being vengeful.
Disagreement with CM no ground for disqualification: Pilot's team
Notably, Pilot's team is facing disqualification for being absent from Congress Legislature Party meetings on July 13 and 14, but they have argued in HC that a whip is only valid when an assembly is in session. The team, being represented by top lawyers Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, also argued that disagreement with CM's working style is no ground to evoke anti-defection law.
Chief whip wants to disqualify MLAs for skipping meetings
Congress' Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi sought action against Pilot and other rebels under Clause 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which says that MLAs must be disqualified if they "voluntarily" give up the membership of their party.
Pilot is learned to have spoken with Priyanka Gandhi
Interestingly, while Pilot may have dismissed Gehlot publicly, he has still not ended ties with the top brass of Congress. Over the weekend, he phoned Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, though details of the conversation weren't known. Earlier, he had also spoken to former Finance Minister and a regular at CWC meetings, P Chidambaram, who told Pilot that he should discuss issues with the party.
Meanwhile, BJP is now on a "wait and watch" mode
Separately, BJP seems to have given up on the hopes to form a government in Rajasthan. It is on a "wait and watch" mode. As Pilot has declared he will not join the saffron party, BJP is busy supporting his efforts against Gehlot. Although some trusted leaders have been tasked with winning over some MLAs of Gehlot's team, the project might not give results. So soon!