Sachin Pilot Show Of Strength Dwindles, Advantage Ashok Gehlot
At a briefing at 2.30 AM last night, the Congress said its government is safe.
Jaipur/ New Delhi: Facing a revolt from his deputy Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot today hit back with a show of strength in which he scored close to 100 Congress MLAs. Sachin Pilot, who skipped the meeting, went on record to deny he is moving to the BJP. But his claim that he has 30 MLAs on his side did not bear out; only 10 appear to be with him. “Talk to us,” the Congress said, asserting that its door was open and grievances could be resolved.
10 developments in this big story
- 97 of 107 Congress MLAs have arrived at the Chief Minister’s home in Jaipur so far. Two ministers are missing. Sources in the party believe Sachin Pilot, deputy Chief Minister and Congress chief in Rajasthan, has no more than 10 MLAs on his side. In the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, 101 is the half-way mark.
- Sachin Pilot denied joining the BJP amid reports that he was likely to meet BJP chief JP Nadda in Delhi. There has been speculation that he would take Jyotiraditya Scindia’s route in an attempt to reclaim his political space.
- In March, Jyotiraditya Scindia, a close aide of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, stunned the party in Madhya Pradesh by defecting to the BJP along with 22 MLAs, which brought the Congress government in that state crashing down. With Mr Scindia’s help, the BJP returned to power.
- Around the same time, Sachin Pilot, another Rahul Gandhi confidant who had been resentful after being denied Chief Ministership of Rajasthan, was also believed to have started talks with the BJP.
- At a briefing at 2.30 AM last night, the Congress said its government is safe. “A total of 109 MLAs have signed a letter expressing their trust and support to the government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and leadership of Sonia Gandhi-ji and Rahul Gandhi-ji,” Rajasthan Congress in-charge Avinash Pande said.
- After nearly two years of a simmering feud with Ashok Gehlot, the tipping point for Sachin Pilot came after he was summoned for questioning in an investigation into an alleged attempt to destabilise the state government ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections. The summons was based on what the police say were tapped phone conversations of two BJP members arrested on Friday.
- Chief Minister Gehlot tried to downplay the summons by the Special Operations Group, saying he, too, had received it. That did not wash with a furious Sachin Pilot, whose aides pointed out that as state home minister in charge of the Special Operations Group, Mr Gehlot had practically given himself the summons as an eyewash.
- The Congress has 107 seats in the 200-strong Rajasthan Assembly and has the support of 10 Independent candidates. Five MLAS from other parties — the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the CPM and the Bharatiya Tribal Party – support Ashok Gehlot, who claimed on Saturday that the BJP was offering up to Rs 15 crore to MLAs to switch sides.
- The BJP, which has 73 MLAs, needs the support of another 35 to take power in Rajasthan. Offering Sachin Pilot the post of Chief Minister as he wants will be a challenge since the party has to consider its own Rajasthan powerhouse, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
- While Chief Minister Gehlot battles his deputy’s revolt, two of his aides were raided by taxmen this morning in what the Congress alleged was pressure tactics by the BJP-led central government. Five premises linked to the two leaders were raided over allegations of “tax evasion”, said officials at the Income Tax Department, which comes under the centre.