After Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the BJP is trying to grab power in the state by bribing MLAs, the state Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot reached Delhi with at least eight of his loyalist MLAs and is expected to talk to the party leadership about the developing crisis in government.
Media cofirmed from leaders of both sides that Pilot came to Delhi and had a special one on one meeting with senior leader Ahmed Patel to discuss this issue. In the meeting, Pilot told the senior leader known to be a close aide of party president, Sonia Gandhi, that his differences with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had gone too far.
“There were a long list of grievances that he spoke about,’’ said one leader aware of developments. However, it is unclear if there was any follow-up action to that meeting. Pilot also met other senior leaders like general secretary in charge of organisation, KC Venugopal.
The two leaders have had a rivalry that’s well known in party circles. When INC won the 2018 elections by 107 in the 200 strong assembly, the fight between the two factions came to the fore as Pilot refused to sit back after having worked as the state president and claiming the victory as part of his efforts. Gehlot dug in his heels as well and finally then party chief Rahul Gandhi found a middle path where he made Pilot the deputy chief minister.
However, as one leader pointed out, this turned out to be more on paper than in reality.
“The deputy chief minister had limited powers and wouldn’t be consulted on any decisions in the state. Most of the times he found out about cabinet decisions from media reports,’’ said one leader who didn’t want to be identified.
While it is unclear what emerged from the Delhi meeting, as both Ahmed Patel and Sachin Pilot were unavailable for comments, senior leaders are now speaking out. INC MP and former minister Kapil Sibal tweeted, “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?’’
However, The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has maintained that it has no role in trying to topple the Gehlot government in Rajasthan and the allegations made by the chief minister are an attempt to deflect from the party’s own failings.
“No meetings have taken place between Sachin Pilot and the BJP leadership. Everyone knows there are problems between the CM and the deputy CM, but they are trying to pin the blame on the BJP,” said a party leader in Delhi. Several other party leaders also asserted that the BJP is not engineering any defections.
On whether the party will stake claim to forming the government if a faction of Congress MLAs does break away, a second leader said, “The outcome will depend on what decision the Congress high command takes. The BJP will only take whatever decisions are required once there is a decision from the Congress’ side.”
There has been speculation that deputy chief minister Pilot, along with 25 other MLAs, will either join the BJP or float his own party that could seek support from the BJP. In the 200-member state assembly, the BJP has 72 MLAs and the half-way mark is 101. The Congress has 107 MLAs and also enjoys support from 12 independents and five from other parties.
“The numbers are critical. The BJP is confident that if a re-election happens in the state it will win with a comfortable majority. However, those who will join and seek re-election have to be equally confident of retaining their seats,” said the second functionary.
A Rajasthan based leader said the party is also wary of having a situation similar to Madhya Pradesh, where internal bickering has intensified after the CM Shivraj Singh government accommodated Congress rebels in his cabinet.