By SM.13 Jul, 2020
JAIPUR: Rebel Sachin Pilot today denied any meeting with Rahul Gandhi and remained unresponsive to Congress attempts to pacify him even as his boss and chief adversary Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, made it clear that he would not forgive attempts at dislodging his government. Gehlot flaunted at least 100 MLAs during a meeting and later released a resolution for "strict disciplinary action" against anyone who "indulges in activities against the Congress government and party", without taking names. Gehlot claims he has enough MLAs to rebuff any threat to his government from his deputy Sachin Pilot, who is camping in Delhi with a few MLAs. Taking no chances, Gehlot moved MLAs in buses from his home straight to a resort in Jaipur.
Sachin Pilot stayed away from Gehlot"s show of strength in Jaipur while Congress leaders despatched to Jaipur from Delhi urged: "Talk to us." Posters of Sachin Pilot were put back up in the Rajasthan capital after party workers removed them earlier today.
As Sachin Pilot stayed unmoved by overtures from the Congress brass, sources close to Rahul Gandhi said the two leaders "have great affection and respect for each other" and speak often, directly. Congress sources say Mr Pilot is not in direct touch with the Gandhis and is still negotiating with the BJP.
Pilot says he has 30 MLAs but Congress sources claim he has no more than 16. The party fears its crisis will worsen if the BJP actively tries to pull down its government with help from the sulking Rajasthan Congress chief.
Pilot has denied any move to join the BJP. Sources close to him also assert that Mr Gehlot is now in a minority, at least six short of a majority. In March, Jyotiraditya Scindia, a close aide of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, stunned the party in Madhya Pradesh by defecting to the BJP along with 22 MLAs, ending its wafer-thin majority. With Scindia"s help, the BJP returned to power.
It is around that time when Pilot, who had been resentful after being denied Chief Ministership of Rajasthan, was also believed to have opened talks with the BJP.
After nearly two years of a simmering feud between the Congress"s top two in Rajasthan, the tipping point for Pilot came after he was summoned for questioning in an investigation into an alleged attempt to destabilise the state government ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections. The summons was based on what the police say were tapped phone conversations of two BJP members arrested on Friday.
Chief Minister Gehlot tried to downplay the summons by the Special Operations Group, saying he, too, had received it. That did not wash with a furious Sachin Pilot, whose aides pointed out that as state home minister in charge of the Special Operations Group, Gehlot had practically given himself the summons as an eyewash.
The Congress has 107 MLAs in the 200-strong Rajasthan Assembly and has the support of 10 Independent candidates. Five MLAS from other parties -- the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the CPM and the Bharatiya Tribal Party - support Gehlot, who has accused the BJP of offering up to Rs 15 crore to MLAs to switch sides.
The BJP, which has 73 MLAs, needs the support of another 35 to take power in Rajasthan. Offering Sachin Pilot the post of Chief Minister as he wants will be a challenge since the party has to consider its own Rajasthan powerhouse, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
While Gehlot was deep into political firefighting, two of his aides were raided by taxmen in what the Congress alleged was pressure tactics by the BJP-led central government. Five premises linked to the two leaders were raided over allegations of "tax evasion", said officials at the Income Tax Department.