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Rajasthan top cop writes to Haryana, Delhi counterparts seeking support after failed bids to quiz Pilot team

Meanwhile, the Rajasthan High Court is hearing a petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs challenging disqualification notices served to them last week for ‘anti-party activities’.

SNS | New Delhi |

After failing despite repeated bids to get hold of the rebel Congress MLAs of Sachin Pilot camp for questioning in the audio clips case, Rajasthan DGP Bhupendra Yadav has written to his Haryana counterpart and the Commissioner of Delhi Police, seeking cooperation in the Special Operation Group’s (SOG) probe into the alleged attempts to destabilize the Ashok Gehlot government.

This comes as, for the second time in three days, on Sunday, Rajasthan Police’s SOG team — which has been probing the audio clips released by the Congress alleging horse-trading to topple the state government — once again returned empty-handed from a resort in Haryana where the Sachin Pilot team has been camping.

They returned empty-handed within 10 minutes as the hotel-management did not allow them to enter and asked them to come in the morning.

On Friday, the SOG team was stopped by the Haryana Police outside ITC Bharat Grand in Manesar.

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.

According to a report in NDTV, the Rajasthan Special Operations Group had gone to record a voice sample of Bhanwar Lal Sharma, who according to the Congress, had been involved in an alleged conspiracy with the BJP to topple the Ashok Gehlot government.

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.

Newly-appointed Rajasthan Congress President, Govind Singh Dotasra, had also on Saturday claimed that Rajasthan SOG team was made to wait by the Haryana Police until the MLAs inside the resort were moved out.

Meanwhile, reports have also emerged that the Congress has alleged that the Delhi Police under Union Home Minister Amit Shah is protecting the rebel MLAs lodged in different hotels and are being shunted to different places to thwart SOG investigations,

The Congress government is witnessing a major crisis after Sachin Pilot announced that the Gehlot government was in minority and he has support of 30 MLAs.

Since then, Gehlot camp MLAs are camping in a five-star hotel while Pilot camp MLAs are reportedly camping in different hotels in Delhi after vacating a Manesar hotel.

Meanwhile, the political crisis in Rajasthan further worsened and the rift between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot came out wide open as the chief minister on Monday alleged that his former deputy “played a very dirty game and conspired to topple his own government.”

After terming him ‘Nikamma’ (useless or worthless) and ‘Nakara’ (purposeless), he ended his speech saying Satyamev Jayate.

This was the second time in the last one week when Gehlot opened all fronts against Pilot who was recently sacked as deputy chief minister and PCC chief.

Speaking to the media, Gehlot said, “There was no lack of respect for Pilot in the party, but he played a very dirty game and conspired to please the BJP.”

In the midst of all the chaos, the Rajasthan High Court is hearing a petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs challenging disqualification notices served to them last week for “anti-party activities”.

On Monday, top lawyers on both sides argued over whether dissent is “anti-party” and whether the Speaker’s action on dissenters violates freedom of speech. Top lawyer Harish Salve, representing team Pilot, said, “Disqualification notice for inner party dissent is violation of freedom of speech”.

Salve said a party member was “free to defy the party whip direction” outside the assembly and it did not constitute defection. “Intra-party dissent, however shrill it may be, until the moment it goes to the extent of supporting another party, cannot be a ground to even start disqualification proceedings,” he said.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Speaker CP Joshi – who served the disqualification notices on the rebels — argued that team Pilot cannot approach the court before the Speaker takes action. “The rebels don’t have grounds to question the Speaker until the Speaker gives a decision. The Speaker and the assembly are not in the judicial purview of the court for now,” said Singhvi.

Team Pilot has contested a constitutional rule that disqualifies MLAs if they “voluntarily” give up the membership of the party that they represent.

If Sachin Pilot’s team is disqualified, it will bring down the majority mark in the assembly and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot can win even more easily. Team Pilot has 19 members, and along with the BJP’s 72, can give the state’s Congress government a close fight if it wins the case.

The political upheaval in Rajasthan worsened last Thursday as the Congress 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.

Besides suspending MLAs Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh from primary membership of the party last week, the Congress had on Sunday also upped the ante on Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat’s alleged role in the attempts to topple the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan and demanded his resignation or removal from the Union Cabinet.

After Sachin Pilot and the rebel MLAs gave the second CLP meeting a miss on July 14, the Congress announced the removal of Pilot as the Deputy Chief Minister as well as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.

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.

On July 12, the sulking leader declared open rebellion against his party by claiming that he has the support of 30 MLAs.