Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is suspected to be involved in an alleged conspiracy to topple the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan, on Wednesday criticised the Gandhi family. “The whole country has paid the price for keeping a family happy,” tweeted the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Jodhpur without naming the Gandhis.
Shekhawat’s name got drawn into the ongoing political crisis in Rajasthan after a purported audio clip of two dissident Congress MLAs conspiring to bring down the state government with the BJP leader emerged on social media last week.
On July 17, the Congress suspended dissident MLAs Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh. The Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau has filed a case against the suspended MLAs on a complaint made by Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi. A special police team has also been formed to investigate the case.
The Congress also demanded a warrant against Shekhawat. On Monday, the Special Operations Group of Rajasthan Police asked Shekhawat to appear for questioning.
Shekhawat, however, has repeatedly rejected the allegations and said he was prepared to be investigated. “The voice on the audiotapes is not mine,” he had said last week. “I am ready to face any investigation.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry to check if the Congress government in the state had tapped phones. However, the Congress rebutted the allegations and called for an independent investigation into the saffron party’s “nefarious activities” in Rajasthan.
The crisis so far
Amid the worsening political crisis in Rajasthan, Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court against the High Court’s order to defer action on the disqualification notices to 19 rebel legislators.
Joshi had served disqualification notices to 19 rebel MLAs, including former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, for “anti-party activities” last week. After the rebel MLAs approached the High Court, Joshi was first asked to defer action by three days. On Tuesday, the Rajasthan High Court said it would announce on July 24 its decision on the rebels’ petition and asked the Speaker to not take a decision on the disqualification notices till the final verdict.
The notices were served to Pilot and the rebel leaders after the MLAs had defied a whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings to resolve the political crisis in the state. However, the MLAs said that a party whip applies only when the Assembly is in session.
Pilot was sacked as deputy chief minister and the president of the state unit of the party on July 14 after he rebelled against Chief Minister Gehlot.
The power struggle between Gehlot and his deputy had been going on for quite some time, but the latest crisis was triggered after Pilot was summoned by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad and the Special Operations Group earlier in July. 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 said the notice was misinterpreted, adding that a similar notice was sent to him as well.