As the desert state’s political saga is taking new turns each day, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday sought a detailed report from Rajasthan government over the alleged phone tapping case in the state.
According to news agency IANS sources, the ministry has asked Rajasthan Chief Secretary to submit the report by next week over the issue after the Special Operations Group (SOG) in Rajasthan on Friday lodged an FIR against Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat for trying to destabilise the Ashok Gehlot government by attempting to offer money to the MLAs in the audio clips.
The development comes after the BJP on Saturday demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into all the aspects of the alleged phone tapping.
In a press conference earlier in the day, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the events around the unfolding of the political crisis in Rajasthan were a mix of “conspiracy, lies and illegalities by the Congress government in the state”.
The political upheaval in Rajasthan worsened on Thursday as the Congress had released three audio clips purported to be of “horse-trading” discussions, which it said, were being held between Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and an MLA of Sachin Pilot’s camp, who were coordinating via a Jaipur resident.
The Congress had claimed that the audio clips contained “horse-trading” discussions between Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Sachin Pilot loyalist Bhanwar Lal Sharma, where they spoke about bribing MLAs and bringing down the Ashok Gehlot government.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala also had released what it claims are transcripts of alleged audio conversations between BJP and a rebel MLA. However, the audio tapes were not played before media.
Speaking to media, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala had alleged that the tapes contained conversations between Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, BJP leader Sanjay Jain and Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma, where they spoke about bribing MLAs and bringing down the Rajasthan government.
However, in separate statements, Union minister Shekhawat and MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma had rejected the charge that they figured in the audio clips.
Further, businessman Sanjay Jain was arrested by the Special Operations Group (SOG) team of Rajasthan Police on Friday under sections 124-A (sedition) and 120-B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Meanwhile, a disqualification case is in the Rajasthan High Court as Sachin Pilot and his loyalists have challenged the validity and legality of the notice sent to them on Tuesday by Speaker CP Joshi, asking them to explain why they should not be disqualified as Assembly members for defying the party whip.
After Sachin Pilot and the rebel MLAs gave the second CLP meeting a miss on Tuesday, the Congress announced the removal of Pilot as the Deputy Chief Minister as well as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.
Two other ministers, Vishvender Singh and Ramesh Meena, who joined him in his revolt, were also immediately dropped from the Ashok Gehlot cabinet.
Meanwhile, amidst the crisis, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has indirectly accused Sachin Pilot of engaging in a deal to topple the government.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Gehlot said that the PCC chief was talking to the BJP and the deal was closed at 2 am and a monetary transaction was done. He also accused the Modi government of being engaged in the entire plot.
The development comes after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into all the aspects of the alleged phone tapping.
In a press conference earlier in the day, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the events around the unfolding of the political crisis in Rajasthan were a mix of “conspiracy, lies and illegalities by the state Congress government in the state”.
He then asked five questions on the alleged tapes made public by All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Randeep Surjewala on Friday.
“Phone tapping can only be done by authorised agencies as per due process of law and subject to approved safeguards and SOPs. Each case is also reviewed by a committee chaired by a Cabinet Secretary in case of Centre and State Secretary in case of a State government,” Patra said.
“These are serious questions that we want to ask the Rajasthan Congress and Ashok Gehlot. Was phone tapping done? The Congress government in Rajasthan must answer. Secondly, is it not a sensitive and legal issue, if phone tapping has been done? Assuming that you’ve tapped phones, was the SOP followed? The people of Rajasthan want to know whether their privacy has been compromised. Did the Congress government in Rajasthan use unconstitutional ways to save themselves when they found themselves cornered? And finally is the phone of any person who is related to politics being tapped,” asked Patra.
“We demand a CBI probe into all the illegalities of this alleged tapping,” he said.
The BJP’s aggressive stance comes after the case against Shekhawat and after the Haryana Police rushed to regulate the ingress of an SOG from Rajasthan at the Manesar hotel where rebel Congress MLAs loyal to Sachin Pilot are lodged.
A team of the Rajasthan Police, that went to a resort in Haryana’s Manesar, where some rebel Congress MLAs have reportedly been camping, were stopped by the state’s cops and had to return empty-handed on Friday.
The Rajasthan police headed by SP Vikas Sharma had reached the hotel at Manesar to record the statement of a dissident Congress leader of the Sachin Pilot camp, staying here since last Friday.
As soon as the Rajasthan Police arrived at the hotel, they were stopped by their Haryana counterpart for almost an hour and then allowed to go inside. However, the Rajasthan police reportedly could not get hold of any of the rebels.
Additional Director General (SOG) Ashok Rathore said the team was told at the reception that the MLA was not there.
It is alleged that the rebel MLAs are being protected by the Haryana police.
The Congress in Rajasthan is witnessing a power tussle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot, who is upset since he was denied the Chief Minister’s post after the December 2018 assembly elections.
On July 12, sulking leader Sachin Pilot had declared open rebellion against his party by claiming that he has the support of 30 MLAs.
The crisis exploded following the night of July 10 when the Rajasthan Police sent a notice to Pilot, asking him to record his statement over an alleged attempt to bring down the government.