National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Monday criticised Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel for trying to link his release from over seven months of detention under the Public Safety Act, with the political turmoil in Rajasthan.
In an interview to The Hindu, published earlier on Monday, Baghel had answered a question on Congress leader Sachin Pilot’s revolt in Rajasthan with: “And as far as Sachin Pilot is concerned, not that I have been tracking the Rajasthan events so closely, but it does make one curious why Omar Abdullah was released?” Baghel then pointed out that both Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti were booked under the same sections of the law, but only Abdullah had been released.
“Is it because Mr Abdullah is brother-in-law of Sachin Pilot?” Baghel asked. Pilot is married to Abdullah’s sister Sara Abdullah.
On Monday, the Abdullah and his party, the National Conference, threatened to sue Baghel, “unequivocally” rejecting “malicious, false and politically motivated statements that are used for convenient political posturing”. Baghel’s statement was false and scurrilous and defamatory to Abdullah’s reputation, the party said in a statement.
Abdullah, his father Farooq Abdullah and Mufti – all former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir – and many other local politicians were detained last August, when the Centre scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, and bifurcated it into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. While the Abdullahs and some other politicians have been released, Mufti is still under detention.
“I am fed up of the downright malicious and false allegation that what Sachin Pilot is doing is somehow linked to my or my father’s release from detention earlier this year,” Omar Abdullah said in a tweet. “Enough is enough. Mr @bhupeshbaghel will be hearing from my lawyers.” He also tagged Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Randeep Surjewala as well as the party in the tweet.
The National Conference said in its statement that it is widely known that Omar Abdullah’s release took place after judicial intervention from the Supreme Court.
Soon after the two statements were issued, Baghel responded to Abdullah on Twitter. “Please do not try to turn this tragic demise of democracy into an opportune moment Omar Abdullah ji,” Baghel said. “The ‘allegation’ was only a question asked, and we will keep asking it, as will the country.”
But Abdullah castigated Baghel and told him to send the answer to his lawyers. “This is what is wrong with the [Congress] today, you don’t know your friends from your opponents,” Abdullah added. “This is why you people are in the mess you are in. Your ‘question’ was malicious & will not go uncontested.”
The Rajasthan crisis
The Rajasthan government, meanwhile, has been reeling under a crisis for the past few weeks, since Sachin Pilot and some other leaders revolted against the Ashok Gehlot-led government.
Gehlot last week removed Pilot as deputy chief minister after first accusing the BJP of trying to poach MLAs from his campaign and then having the Rajasthan Police send a summons to his deputy as a part of the investigation into this alleged conspiracy.
The Rajasthan High Court is currently hearing a challenge by Pilot and 18 MLAs in his camp against disqualification notices sent by the Speaker of the Assembly. Pilot and his camp have until Tuesday to reply to the Speaker, while arguments in court continue.
Though Pilot has claimed all along that he doesn’t plan to go to the BJP, his rebellion involved taking his MLAs to BJP-ruled Haryana and engaging Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, both lawyers who are associated with the BJP.