It was an action packed day in Rajasthan politics as the imminent threat to Gehlot government was dissipated. In a show of strength Gehlot padded MLAs before the media and the party issued a statement that they had the support of 109 MLAs in writing.
The party also claimed that it another half a dozen legislators had committed their support. This comes a day after Sachin Pilot had claimed that the Gehlot government was in minority as he had the support of 30 MLAs.
The CLP meet was held at chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s official residence. The meeting that was scheduled to begin at 10.30 am started three hours late this was because adequate time was given to MLAs to reach the CLP meet. Taking advantage of this window two MLAs from Banswara - Ramila Khadia and Arjun Singh Bamania - took a helicopter ride to reach the meeting. Around 17 MLAs did not come for the CLP meet and it is believed that they are with Pilot at a hotel in Gurugram. Pilot and his supporters stayed away from the CLP meet.
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. The resolution expressed faith in the leadership of Ashok Gehlot and demanded that strict disciplinary action be taken against legislators and party functionaries who are found to be involved in the attempts to topple the government. After the CLP meet the legislators were taken to a hotel on the Jaipur Delhi highway where they would be holed up till further decision. It is also believed that a cabinet expansion and reshuffle would soon be on the cards.
Adding a sense of panic to the already tense situation were wide scale IT raids on two of Gehlot’s close aides Dharmendra Rathore and Rajeev Arora. Congress accused the Centre of exerting pressure to twist the political situation to its advantage. “There are three frontal affiliated organisations of the central government – IT, ED and CBI. The IT has begun its work, next ED will step in and then CBI will also come in,” said Surjewala. Later in the day reports of ED raids on the business partner of Ashok Gehlot’s son vaibhav Gehlot also came in.
All through the 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 incharge Avinash Pande and come. 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 broken due to that. Issues are sorted out through interventions of elders.”
At the same time the message was clear to Pilot as Surjewala said, “It is neither fair nor in accordance to the aspirations of the public to allow personal competition to interfere with an elected government.”
Delhi has sent four senior leaders – Surjewala, Ajay Maken, K C Venugopal and Avinash Pandey - to sort the issue. Surjewala said that they had come as representatives of Sonia Gandhi after she took cognizance of Ashok Gehlot’s information about attempts to topple his government.
All day rumours were rife about Pilot floating a party and BJP supporting the government from outside. This led to yet another round of roumers about about an immediate change in the PCC chief. Pilot's posters at PCC were also removed, however, they was later put up again.
State incharge Avinash Pande 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 tweeted to demand a floor test. The tweet was subsequently deleted.
The feud between Gehlot and Pilot has been simmering ever since Congress came to power in Rajasthan. There have been several skirmishes, battles for one upmanship and public rebuttals between the two. However, this time the feud runds deep and the rift is split wide as Pilot stakes his political career to get what he wants – in this case the chief minsiter’s chair.