In yet another setback for the Congress, senior leader and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot on Tuesday skipped the legislative party meeting for the second time at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s residence in Jaipur.
Party sources quoted by ANI said that the Congress Legislature Party meeting is being conducted repeatedly to send messages to Sachin Pilot that there is still time for him to come back.
A decision on further course of action will be taken after today’s meeting, they said.
The sources had also stated that there was less possibility of Pilot attending the CLP meet even as Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram and KC Venugopal have tried speaking to him several times.
Heightening the political turmoil in Rajasthan, sulking leader Sachin Pilot has been missing from action since the last few days and had declared open rebellion against his party claiming on Sunday that he has the support of 30 MLAs.
On Monday, he even released the first-ever video showing MLAs in his camp sitting together in a resort in Haryana’s Manesar. The MLAs can be seen sitting together and talking, though Pilot is not visible in the video. They haven’t disclosed the place where the video has been recorded.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised on the numbers as quoted by the Pilot camp for his claimed strength doesn’t seem evident in the video. It showed 16 MLAs.
However, Rajasthan Congress has claimed that 109 MLAs have signed a letter of support to the chief minister. The Congress sources have also thrashed Pilot’s claims saying that he has not more than 16 MLAs with him.
There had been reports that the BJP is trying to worsen the crisis with the aim to pull down the Congress government in the state with support of Pilot and his aides. But Pilot refuted the claims.
Meanwhile, for today’s meeting, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had invited all 107 Congress MLAs and 15 others – independents and allies. However, the number may be barely one more than the half-way mark of 101 in the 200-member assembly.
On Monday, the chief minister held a CLP meeting which was skipped by Pilot and his flock of 18 MLAs.
Following this, a resolution by MLAs called for “strict disciplinary action” against anyone who did anything to weaken the government or the party.
After the meeting, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot flashed the victory sign along with Congress MLAs who attended his meeting in Jaipur, asserting that his government is safe.
Meanwhile, on Monday, soon after the culmination of the CLP meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence, some 100-odd MLAs were packed off to the Fairmont Hotel on the Delhi-Jaipur highway.
Fairmont is the same hotel which was raided by I-T sleuths on Monday morning.
The Rajasthan political crisis took a new turn on Monday when the Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate teams raided multiple premises connected to people from Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s camp.
ED sources have claimed that investor Ratan Kant Sharma, a close aide of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot, had allegedly received around Rs 96.7 crore from Mauritius and has stakes in Hotel Fairmont.
According to IT department officials, searches were conducted at the offices of veteran state Congress leaders, including Rajeev Arora and Dharmendra Rathod, considered close to the Chief Minister.
Unaccounted cash, jewellery, property papers and lockers were seized. The team also reached Bhilwara and Jhalawad to carry out searches, officials said.
Searches were also carried out in Delhi at premises of one of the Kothari brothers, who once was awarded a mega irrigation project in Rajasthan and faced complaints of irregularities in dam construction.
The sources said that the searches were conducted at the office premises of Om Metals Infra Projects Ltd in Saket area and at Kothari’s residential premises in Sainik Farms area.
The Congress in Rajasthan is witnessing a power tussle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot, who is upset since he was denied the Chief Minister’s post after the December 2018 assembly elections.
The current crisis began Friday night when the Rajasthan Police sent a notice to Pilot, asking him to record his statement over an alleged attempt to bring down the government.
In the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs and the BJP 72.
The Congress also has the support of 10 out of 13 independents, and other party MLAs like Rashtriya Lok Dal (1), which is its ally. The Congress also considers Bhartiya Tribal Party (2) and CPI(M) (2) MLAs as their supporters.
Apart from its 72 MLAs, BJP’s ally Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) has three MLAs.
The political development in Rajasthan draws similarities with Madhya Pradesh where Chief minister Kamal Nath’s government plunged into a deep crisis and eventually lost power this March after senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 Congress legislators, including six ministers, tendered their resignations and defected to the BJP.