The Congress government in Rajasthan appeared to be headed for a major crisis on Sunday as deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot claimed that he has the support of 30 MLAs and the Ashok Gehlot-led government is a minority.
Pilot was also quoted as saying by PTI that he would not attend the Congress' Legislature Party meeting on Monday.
Meanwhile, the BJP is in a "wait and watch" mode over the unfolding crisis and will wait for the outcome of the show of strength between Gehlot and Pilot before deciding on its next course of action, party sources told PTI.
Gehlot has called a meeting of Congress MLAs on Monday, which is likely to give a clear indication of how much support he and Pilot enjoy in the legislative group.
Pilot, who is also the Rajasthan Congress president, is said to be in touch with some BJP leaders but saffron party sources declined to comment on whether it has held any discussion with him.
A BJP leader said the rebel Congress leader seems to have "made up his mind" and does not look in any mood to reconcile with Gehlot's leadership.
However, senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala exuded confidence that the party's government in Rajasthan will complete its five-year term and said the BJP has no reason to cheer.
Surjewala reached Jaipur along with party colleague Ajay Maken late on Sunday night. The two leaders have been sent by the Congress as central observers to save the party's government in the state.
"There is no reason for the BJP to cheer. The Congress government will complete its five-year term," Surjewala, who is also the party's spokesperson, told reporters.
Surjewala and Maken will hold a meeting with Gehlot and Congress MLAs to avert a crisis in the state.
AICC general secretary Avinash Pande also reached the chief minister's residence for the meeting.
Pilot, who has been camping in Delhi, skipped the meeting.
The Congress has 107 MLAs in the 200-member state assembly while the BJP has 72. After losing power to its rival in the 2018 assembly polls, the BJP had swept the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by winning all 25 seats in the state.
The BJP has come to power in states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka through defection by MLAs from the Congress and other rival parties.
Former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia was instrumental in toppling the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and he joined the BJP with his supporters later.
Scindia and Pilot have long enjoyed warm personal relations, and the former on Sunday tweeted in support of the Rajasthan leader and had a swipe at the Congress. He said:
" Jyotiraditya M. Scindia (@JM_Scindia) July 12, 2020
Gehlot had on Saturday alleged that the opposition BJP was trying to lure Congress MLAs to topple the state government.
The BJP dismissed the claim, saying the recent developments only reflected the power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot, simmering since the Congress leadership in Delhi picked the more senior politician for the chief minister's post.
Gehlot and other leaders are said to be in touch with allies and independent MLAs supporting the government, hoping to ensure at Monday's meeting that the Congress government had the numbers to retain power.
Pilot had been incommunicado for about two days.
The All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of the state, Avinash Pande, told PTI that he had been trying to get in touch with the leader.
"I have left messages for him," he had said.
Pilot's supporters had said he was camping in Delhi and was upset over a notice sent to him by the Rajasthan police, who claimed to have stumbled on a plot to topple the Congress government.
The notice from the Special Operations Group had (SOG) sought time from him to record a statement.
The same notice was also sent to Gehlot, Government Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi and some other MLAs, but those close to Pilot insisted that it was meant to "humiliate" him.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal had tweeted his concern during the day. He asked "
Worried for our party
Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables ?
" Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) July 12, 2020
Sports Minister Ashok Chandna had even urged MLAs to learn a lesson from what happened in Madhya Pradesh, where Jyotiraditya Scindia switched over to the BJP.
"Any person who crosses the party line will not be respected anywhere in the world. This is not the time to lose the respect earned over generations," Chandna said, without naming anyone.
With inputs from PTI