'Will we wake up after horses have bolted?'; Congress 'worried' over deepening rift between Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan

Pilot, who had played a major role in reviving the party in Rajasthan, was sidelined after Gehlot was given a third chance to become the chief minister ahead of the 2018 state polls

FP Staff July 12, 2020 21:06:53 IST
'Will we wake up after horses have bolted?'; Congress 'worried' over deepening rift between Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday sounded a note of alarm as Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot reportedly reached Delhi amid long-standing rumours of infighting and discontent within the state government.

“Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?” Sibal questioned, even as News18 reported that Pilot reached Delhi with some of his loyalist MLAs, including three Independents, on Sunday and is likely to meet the state leadership. Pilot also met senior party leader Ahmed Patel on Saturday, where he was assured that “injustice will not be allowed to happen to him”.

In a similar vein, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram also appeared to take a swipe at the party's organisational style, although he did not directly name the party.

This comes a day after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that BJP was indulging in horse-trading ahead of the 10 June Rajya Sabha elections. "We keep hearing talk of money being offered to MLAs to switch sides. Some have been promised up to Rs 15 crore and some have been assured of other favours. What they first did covertly, they now do overtly. You saw this in Goa, Madhya Pradesh and the north-eastern states," Gehlot told NDTV.

The Rajasthan Police’s special operations group (SOG) arrested two persons and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed a preliminary inquiry against three Independent MLAs for alleged attempts to bribe Congress MLAs before the Rajya Sabha polls. The two persons who have been arrested are Ashok Singh and Bharat Malani, while the three MLAs against whom an inquiry has been initiated are Om Prakash Hudla, Suresh Tak and Khushveer Singh.

In an FIR filed on Friday, two mobile numbers intercepted over suspicion of smuggling illegal weapons were found to have conversations about toppling the state government. The conversations included a mention about taking advantage of the fights between Gehlot and Pilot, by breaking away Congress and Independent MLAs. “The men said they could earn Rs 1,000-Rs 2,000 crore only if the chief minister is as per their wish,” the FIR stated, according to The Wire. The men further said that their “Rs 25 crore plan” failed when the chief minister sent MLAs to a resort ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections.

The SOG also sought time to record Gehlot and Pilot’s statements, and a 10 July notice to the effect angered the latter, India Today reported.

The inquiry against the three Independents was also a way to target the Pilot camp, sources close to the Rajasthan Congress chief told News18. This is among the latest reasons for contention between the two leaders. Pilot, who had played a major role in reviving the party in the state after a major drubbing in 2013, was sidelined after Gehlot was given a third chance to become the chief minister ahead of the 2018 state polls. Discontent further strengthened roots over portfolio allocation and a party ticket from Jodhpur to Gehlot’s son Vaibhav for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Rifts among the state leadership also comes months after another young Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia defected to the BJP in March, taking along with him 22 loyalists, toppling the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh.

Meanwhile, Gehlot called a meeting of his Cabinet on Saturday and asked all party MLAs to give a letter of support to him. Pilot was not present at this meeting. However, two Congress MLAs Brijendra Singh Ola and Rajendra Guda have not been traceable for a few hours.

The saffron party denied claims that it is trying to topple the Rajasthan government, with state unit chief Satish Poonia saying that the political situation in the state was the result of infighting within the Congress and the chief minister was just trying to shift the blame. Additionally, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) convener Hanuman Beniwal alleged that SOG was tapping phones of MPs and MLAs on the state government’s directions. The Nagaur MP further alleged that Gehlot had attempted to poach three RLP MLAs before the 10 June elections.

The Congress holds 107 seats in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly and has support from 12 Independent MLAs. In addition, five MLAs from other parties - Rashtriya Lok Dal, CPM and Bharatiya Tribal Party - support Gehlot. In the aftermath of the Congress government’s fall in Madhya Pradesh, the party had moved its Rajasthan MLAs to a resort ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls.

With inputs from agencies

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