Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday said he was worried for his party amid alleged attempts of poaching by the Bharatiya Janata Party to overthrow the Ashok Gehlot-led government in Rajasthan. “Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?” Sibal tweeted.
This came after Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot reached Delhi along with over a dozen loyalist MLAs, and is said to be in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to NDTV.
Pilot and other party leaders in Rajasthan are reportedly upset with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for issuing orders to question the deputy chief minister in an investigation into alleged attempts to destabilise the state government. Pilot was summoned by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad and the Special Operations Group on Friday. The complaint was reportedly filed ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections by Rajasthan Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi.
Pilot’s loyalists have threatened to revolt against the investigating order. “Never before has [a] sitting state president or a deputy chief minister [been] served such [a] letter,” an unidentified official close to Pilot told NDTV. “The high command has not done anything to intervene.”
Later in the day, Gehlot clarified that he too had received summons for questioning amid reports of Pilot being upset about being called for interrogation. “Notices have been sent by the Special Operations Group to the chief minister, deputy chief minister, chief whip and some other ministers and MLAs regarding a complaint by the Congress accusing BJP of horse trading,” he tweeted. “Therefore, it is not appropriate of the media to present the matter differently.”
The chief minister has called for a legislature party meeting at his residence in Jaipur on Sunday at 9 pm, ANI reported.
An unidentified Congress member told NDTV that the party’s leadership tried inviting Pilot to attend the meeting, but failed to contact him. “We have called this meeting to preempt the BJP, which keeps changing the rules of the game be it in Madhya Pradesh or Manipur,” the official said. “We are taking adequate precautions to ensure that all our MLAs are present.”
Another unidentified Congress leader said the party is confident they will not allow “a Madhya Pradesh situation to take place again”.
The Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh collapsed in March after 22 MLAs, considered close to former party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, resigned. They later joined the BJP. Scindia joined the saffron party on March 11 and was named the BJP’s Rajya Sabha candidate from Madhya Pradesh.
Pilot, who reached the national Capital on Saturday, also held talks with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. “Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have been briefed about the situation,” an unidentified official told the news channel. “Sonia Gandhi will take a call on the matter and all must work together whatever the differences.”
Pilot has complained of Gehlot’s “sidelining attempts”, another unidentified official told India Today. He has also sought intervention from the Centre.
On Saturday, Gehlot had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to overthrow his government by offering Congress MLAs money amid the state’s fight against the coronavirus crisis.
Gehlot had said that the Leader of the Opposition in Rajasthan, Gulab Chand Kataria, his deputy Rajendra Rathore and BJP’s state President Satish Poonia were trying to bribe Congress leaders in an attempt destabilise the state government. “They are offering Rs 10 crore [to Congress leaders] in advance and Rs 15 crore after the government is toppled,” Gehlot alleged.
The latest political blame game between the two parties in Rajasthan was triggered by a statement released by 20 Congress leaders on Friday, accusing the BJP of “luring” MLAs to switch sides. The BJP, on the other hand, denied that it was involved in any such conspiracy. “The Congress government has failed to deliver and could not manage the COVID-19 crisis properly and is just trying to divert public attention,” BJP’s Rajasthan chief Satish Poonia had said.