It was a pulsating day in Rajasthan politics with the imminent threat to Gehlot government ebbing somewhat.
In a show of bravado, CM Ashok Gehlot paraded his MLAs before the media; the party, in turn, issued a statement that they enjoyed the support of 109 MLAs, which had been tendered in writing.
It was further claimed that another half a dozen legislators were rallying behind the Congress.
The boast came a day after Sachin Pilot claimed that the Gehlot government was in tatters, as he had been able to wean away 30 MLAs.
But the crisis is yet to blow over fully and the Congress has packed off its MLAs to a resort. The party also left the door ajar for Pilot to retrace his steps by announcing that another meeting of legislators will be held at 10 am on Tuesday; the invite is addressed to rebel Sachin Pilot who remained cold to the overtures on Monday.
Monday’s CLP meet was held at Gehlot’s official residence three hours late, as MLAs needed time to reach the venue. Taking advantage of this window, two MLAs from Banswara - Ramila Khadia and Arjun Singh Bamania - took a chopper ride to the venue.
Seventeen MLAs did not come for the CLP meet and it is believed that they are holed up with Pilot at a hotel in Gurugram.
Gehlot and senior party leaders did not take kindly to the attempts to topple the government and a unanimous resolution was passed at the CLP meet expressing faith in the leadership of the chief minister. At the same time, the resolution demanded that strict disciplinary action be taken against legislators and party functionaries who are found to be involved in the attempts to oust the government.
After the CLP meet, the legislators were taken to a hotel on the Jaipur- Delhi highway where they would be cooped up till further notice. It is also believed that a cabinet expansion and reshuffle could be on the cards, to appease the disgruntled elements.
Adding a sense of panic to the tense situation were I-T raids on two of Gehlot’s close aides -- Dharmendra Rathore and Rajeev Arora. The Congress accused the Centre of exerting pressure to leverage the political situation to its advantage. “There are three frontal affiliated organisations of the central government – the IT, the ED and the CBI. The IT has begun its work, next the ED will step in, and then the CBI will also come in,” said Surjewala with intended sarcasm.
Later in the day, reports emanated of ED raids on the business partner of Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav.
All day, Pilot remained incommunicable and unrelenting. Senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala urged Pilot to reconsider his stand and urged all MLAs who had not come for the CLP meeting to contact state in-charge Avinash Pande.
He said, “Sachin Pilot is a part of the Congress family. We respect him and love him. There are disagreements in every family but families are not torn asunder due to that. Issues are sorted out through interventions of elders.”
At the same time, Surjewala’s veiled message to Pilot was loud and clear, “It is neither fair, nor in accordance with the aspirations of the public, to allow personal one-upmanship to interfere with an elected government.”
The High Command had sent four senior leaders – Surjewala, Ajay Maken, K C Venugopal and Avinash Pandey - to sort out the issue. Surjewala said that they had come as representatives of Sonia Gandhi after she took cognizance of Gehlot’s plight at attempts to topple his government.
All day rumours were rife about Pilot floating a party and the BJP supporting the government from outside. This led to yet more buzz about an immediate change at the helm of the PCC.
Pilot's posters at PCC were also removed, however, they reappeared later.
State in-charge Avinash Pande, while speaking to media, said, “The government will complete its full term of five years. We have the support of 109 MLAs in writing and another 5– 6 have committed their support.
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya demanded a floor test in a tweet which was subsequently deleted.