Jaipur, July 12: The crisis-hit Congress, reduced to power in only five states, faces a major crisis to save its government in Rajasthan. The intra-party tensions, brewing since the 2019 general elections debacle, has now turned into a full-blown crisis. Here's all about the political row which has erupted in Rajasthan stemming from "Gehlot-Pilot power tussle".
Lid over the escalating political tensions was removed on Saturday by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who address a special press conference from his residence to claim a "BJP hand" to lure away MLAs from his party and topple the government. Sachin Pilot Incommunicado, Congress Trying for Truce to Save Rajasthan Government.
Gehlot's charges were based on a police crackdown on two "BJP members" - identified as Ashok Singh and Bharat Malani - who allegedly offered a sum of Rs 20-25 crores to around two dozen Congress MLAs for switching sides.
According to Gehlot, a number of Congress legislators themselves flagged the attempts made by the BJP to defect them. The Chief Minister blamed the "central leadership" of the saffron party, accusing them of spending hundreds of crores to engineer a defection in the Congress ranks.
Why is Sachin Pilot Under The Radar?
All eyes are on Pilot amid the political crisis as the 42-year-old has gone incommunicado since Gehlot's outburst against the BJP. Reachout attempts made by the state and central leaders of the party have not been responded by him. Congress sources claim that he has the backing of 25 MLAs who will follow the decision to be taken by him.
Gehlot, while refraining from directly naming Pilot in his press conference, said there are 5-7 contenders for the chief ministerial post within his party. All of them may be capable, but once the party high command has taken the decision, all leaders need to work in a united manner.
His remarks come in the backdrop of reports claiming that Pilot is "sulking" due to the lack of political space being given in the Gehlot government. The Chief Minister has retained a total of nine portfolios including the crucial Home and Finance.
Pilot, who headed the Congress state unit and played an instrumental role in reviving the party's fortunes following the 2013 debacle, had refrained from publicly endorsing the old guard - Gehlot - as the Chief Minister.
After the 2018 victory, Gehlot was given a third shot at the chief ministerial post despite a large number of cadres calling for Pilot's appointment to the post. The decision, claim party insiders, was based on the Gehlot camp enjoying support among majority of the elected Congress legislators.
Police FIR Mentions 'CM-Deputy CM Fight'
The FIR registered by the Rajasthan Police's Special Operation Groups (SOG), in connection to their probe in alleged government toppling bid, also mentions the "fight between CM and Deputy CM".
The phone taps involving the two arrested BJP leaders and other suspects reveal conversations as follows - "Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are having a fight”..."Deputy CM says that he will be the CM".
The call intercepts of Singh and Malani also reveal conversations in which the suspects were heard as saying that Pilot wants to be the new CM, but the BJP may offer him a central berth and appoint their own state leader as the new chief minister.
"But BJP says that CM will be our person and Deputy CM will be made a minister in the central government while the Deputy CM says that he will be the CM – this has also appeared in the conversations," call intercept as quoted in the FIR was reported by The Indian Express.
How Has Sachin Pilot Reacted So Far?
Pilot has maintained silence. He is yet to officially react to the allegations that have been levelled against him from some quarters of the party. The Deputy CM had last sent out a veiled message to the Chief Minister in aftermath of the Rajya Sabha elections last month.
After both Congress MLAs were elected in the biennial polls, Pilot - who was overseeing the poll preparations - said he was always confident of a victory and did not understand "why doubts were being raised".
His remarks were seen as a rebuttal to Gehlot, who had reiterated ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls that the BJP is engineering a defection to defeat one of the party candidates in the Upper House elections.
Will Rajasthan Go The MP Way?
Speculations of a government switchover in Rajasthan gained momentum after the BJP, in March this year, succeeded in returning to power in Madhya Pradesh. The central Indian state had also gone to polls with Rajasthan in 2018 - and the incumbent BJP was voted out from both the states. But the Kamal Nath-led Congress government could last for only 16 months.
The kingpin of Congress government's fall in MP was Jyotiraditya Scindia - another "young gun" of the Congress who sulking since December 2018 on being "denied the chance" to lead the first non-BJP government in Madhya Pradesh in the last 15 years.
In place of the 49-year-old Scindia - who was credited for reviving the party's fortunes in MP after the 2013 rout - the Congress high command and the party'e elected legislators majorly favoured the 72-year-old Kamal Nath.
Scindia, along with 19 MLAs of the Congress, jumped ship to the BJP. This paved the return for Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister of MP. Will the 42-year-old Pilot follow the footsteps of Scindia? This may be determined in the near future.