Elections for three Rajya Sabha seats in Rajasthan have begun to resemble a three-ring circus. The Congress and independent MLAs are enjoying a luxurious break amid the pandemic and posting happy pictures on social media. Now BJP too is all set to play the same resort game, albeit by calling it a training camp.
The BJP legislators have been called to the state party office with their luggage on Tuesday morning, from where they would take off for the Prashikshan Shivir aka a three-day holiday. The BJP has the support of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) in the form of four votes of its MLAs, but their numbers fall miserably short of those required to ensure the win of the second candidate put up by the saffron party.
Meanwhile, despite having the requisite numbers and even more to spare, all is apparently not well in the Congress camp. Some ministers and MLAs have not reached the resort. Those who are not present include Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Meena, Agriculture Minister Lal Chand Kataria, Bharat Singh, Parasram Mordia and Ramnarayan Meena. MLA Wajib Ali is also not present as he is in Australia. Further, Minister Bhanwarlal Meghwal too is not present as he is hospitalized in Delhi. The government has sought opinion from the Election Commission about how his vote would be cast from the hospital.
But adding spice to the political potpourri is a letter by senior legislator Bharat Singh to state in-charge Avinash Pande. Singh who is known for being outspoken and forthright minced no words as he wrote that the entire exercise was pointless and was being done for leaders who will not even recognise the MLAs that vote for them.
The Rajya Sabha elections have also split the rift between Gehlot and Pilot wide open. Both camps have been trying to lay the blame of the entire political developments on the other. Allegations of a crossover attempt and an unnecessary hole up of MLAs are being discreetly traded. Sources say the situation is a cause of concern for the party leadership and a closed door meeting was held between Gehlot, Pilot and Pande to dissipate the situation.
Moving ahead on the complaint given to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Special Operations Group (SOG) about ‘offers’ being made to Congress MLAs to topple the Gehlot government, Chief of Whip in State Assembly Mahesh Joshi has handed over evidence of horse trading to the SOG and will soon appear in person to give statements. Sources say it includes some telephone numbers and documents. Sources add that SOG has put around 200 phone numbers under surveillance and has also traced some numbers to leaders in Delhi.
Below the bonhomie and smiles at the resort there is unease among the MLAs who face a carrot and stick situation. The stick is obviously the ACB and SOG angle while the carrot is the possibility of a cabinet expansion after the polls. Also long overdue political appointments to Constitutional posts, boards and corporations would also be made as a thank you gesture.
Currently, there are 25 ministers including chief minister Gehlot and deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot. The 200-seat assembly permits a maximum of 30. There is also speculations that a few ministers could be dropped due to non-performance. There is palpable excitement within the ranks of the independents and BSP MLAs who merged with the Congress after elections. It is being considered that they would now be rewarded for their support and loyalty.
Elections to three seats for Rajya Sabha are scheduled to be held on June 19. Meanwhile the MLAs will continue to enjoy swimming, cycling, cricket, yoga and football along with lavish meals and evening entertainment of movies and mehfils.