The Congress on Friday suspended rebel MLAs Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh for allegedly plotting with the Bharatiya Janata Party to bring down the government in Rajasthan, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference.
“The Modi government and the BJP are conspiring to grab power instead of fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” Surjewala claimed. He read out the transcripts of audio conversations allegedly featuring Sharma and Singh.
“BJP has breached trust of people,” Surjewala added. “Audio clip reveals horse trading deal.”
The Congress leader also said a first information report should be filed against Sharma and Singh, adding that the audio tapes should be investigated. The tape also purportedly features a conversation between Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, BJP leader Sachin Jain and the rebel MLAs.
Surjewala said a warrant should be issued against Shekhawat for his involvement in horse trading of MLAs. The spokesperson added that sacked Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot should also clarify his stand in the matter. “He [Pilot] should come forward and make his stand public on the allegations of providing MLAs’ list to BJP,” he said.
However, Shekhawat said he is willing to face an investigation on the Congress’ allegations, PTI reported. “I am ready to face any probe,” he said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told News18 that he had not been on talking terms with Pilot for over a year before their rift deepened last weekend. “I have not been speaking to Pilot for the last year-and-a-half as he has been conspiring against my government ever since we were elected,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, a team of the Rajasthan Police left Jaipur to head to the resort in Manesar near Delhi where Pilot and the 18 MLAs have been staying, NDTV reported. The police are reportedly on their way there to look for is Bhanwar Lal Sharma.
Bhanwar Lal Sharma refuted the allegations made against him. “The audio that has gone viral is fake,” he said, according to ANI. “They are trying to pressure MLAs using fake audios as the chief minister is in trouble.”
Amid the worsening political crisis in Rajasthan, Pilot and 18 other dissident MLAs on Thursday moved the High Court. They have challenged the disqualification notices issued to them by Assembly Speaker CP Joshi. The rebel leaders said that they could not be disqualified merely for disagreeing with the decisions and policies of the party. A two-judge bench of the High Court will hear the matter today at 1 pm.
The 19 MLAs were given time till Friday afternoon to respond to the notice issued by the Speaker.
The power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot is not new, but the latest crisis was triggered after Pilot was summoned by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad and the Special Operations Group last week. The SOG had sought time from Pilot to record his statement in a case of conspiracy and sedition registered after attempts were allegedly made by the BJP to bribe Congress MLAs to switch sides during last month’s Rajya Sabha elections. However, Gehlot had pointed out that the notice was misinterpreted, adding that a similar notice was sent to him as well.