The Congress today released transcripts of alleged audio conversations of deal-making between rebel MLAs and the BJP to try and topple the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan. The party also suspended two rebel MLAs and demanded an investigation and police cases against MLAs allegedly caught on tape. An FIR also has been filed against union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and rebel Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma over allegations of a conspiracy against the Congress government in Rajasthan.
On Congress allegations Union Minister Gajendra Shekhawat said, “it is not my voice. I don’t know which Sanjay Jain they are talking about. I know many people in that name. If I had talked to someone my no. should be there. you can conduct a probe. I am ready for an investigation.”
This came out today hours before the two-member division bench of Rajasthan Chief justice Indrajeet Mahantay and justice Prakash Gupta going to hear an amended petition by Sachin Pilot and rebel MLAs against disqualification notices served to them for “anti-party” activities. The rebels have argued that they can’t be served such notices when the Rajasthan assembly is not in session. They have also challenged a constitutional rule that allows the speaker to disqualify any member who has “voluntarily given up his membership” which, they say, is being misused only because they skipped two meetings.
After moving the Rajasthan High Court for dismissal of the disqualification notices served to him and the other rebel MLAs, Sachin Pilot dialled up Chidambaram to seek his advice on Thursday.
As the top Congress leadership tries to placate Sachin Pilot and bring him back to the party fold, veteran party leader P Chidambaram spoke told Pilot that rebellion will be forgotten.
But the tussle between the party and rebels are overstretched now. By approaching the court, Sachin Pilot has “gone to a point of no return”, the Congress said. Mr Pilot has not reacted positively to the Gandhi’s outreach to him – sources said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has reached out to him four times, while her brother Rahul Gandhi has also been in touch with him, but through emissaries. Congress asked Pilot to make clear his stand and come clean on allegation of providing MLAs list to BJP.
Ashok Gehlot has 109 MLAs on his side. The Chief Minister needs 101 MLAs to vote for him in the assembly to retain power. Mr Pilot, on the other hand, claims at least 20 MLAs are with him. Some 16 were seen at a hotel in Manesar near Delhi, where Pilot and other MLAs were camping. If the rebel MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark will drop, making it easier for Mr Pilot’s chief adversary, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, to win a floor test. If the rebels can avoid being disqualified and are allowed to vote as Congress members, Ashok Gehlot’s government could fall. The BJP has 73 MLAs and needs around 30 more to topple the government.
The long-running discord between Mr Gehlot as Chief Minister and Sachin Pilot as his next-in-command went nuclear when his road trip from Jaipur to Delhi came after the Rajasthan police asked him to answer questions about his alleged role in a BJP scheme to pay Congress MLAs to abandon the party. Mr Pilot told the media that this attempt by Mr Gehlot to leverage state machinery against him was the breaking point. Since then, Congress has repeatedly stressed that though it cannot accept preconditions from him, it would like him to engage in talks to find a way out of the current crisis.