In Rajasthan, the battle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Deputy CM Sachin Pilot has intensified. Pilot on Sunday released a statement on his official WhatsApp group, saying that Gehlot-led Congress government was in minority after over 30 Congress MLAs, and some independent MLAs have pledged to support him.
The pilot added that he would not be attending the Congress Legislature Party meeting scheduled to be held today at 10:30 am in Jaipur. Earlier, the meeting was scheduled to take place at 9 pm on Sunday. However, after Pilot's statement, the meeting's schedule was changed to Monday morning.
The meeting will be attended by All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary In-Charge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pande, CWC member Randeep Singh Surjewala, and senior leader Ajay Maken among others to handle the crisis. Pande has claimed that 109 MLAs have signed a letter of support to the chief minister. He said a whip has been issued to all the party MLAs, asking them to attend the meeting at 10.30 am. "Action will be taken against those who skip the meeting," Pande said.
Today's meeting is intended to be a show of strength by Gehlot amid the allegation that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was attempting to topple his government, just like in Madhya Pradesh, by indulging in horse-trading of MLAs.
A majority of Congress MLAs and ministers continued to meet Gehlot and expressing support. In fact, three young leaders - Danish Abrar, Rohit Bohra and Chetan Dudi, who were camping for Pilot in Delhi - returned to Jaipur and expressed faith in Gehlot's leadership on Sunday.
Rajasthan's Sports Minister Ashok Chandna urged party MLAs to take a lesson from the recent developments in MP, where Jyotiraditiya Scindia switched sides. "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," he said.
Veteran Congress leader Kapil Sibal also tweeted, "Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?"
A power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot, which has been on since the Congress' central leadership picked the former for the chief minister's post, appears to have deepened. The latest tussle between the two is a notice issued to Pilot by the Rajasthan police's Special Operation Group (SOG) in a case related to alleged attempts to bribe Congress MLAs to switch sides in the Rajya Sabha polls.
However, Gehlot has repeatedly pointed out that a similar notice was sent to him, the government's chief whip, as well as some ministers but those close to Pilot, insisted that it was meant to humiliate him.
In a tweet Sunday, Gehlot stressed that the police notices had gone to several people, including him. He added that a section of the media had interpreted the notices wrongly.
Ashok Rathore, SOG Additional Director-General also stated that the notices were issued to the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, the government chief whip and some other MLAs. He said as the investigation proceeds, others could also be issued notices.
Gehlot also alleged that the opposition BJP was trying to lure Congress MLAs to topple the state government. However, the BJP dismissed the claim saying the recent developments only reflected a power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot.
(With PTI inputs)