Hanuman Beniwal, an MP of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, a BJP ally in Rajasthan, has alleged that former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is trying to help incumbent Ashok Gehlot, whose government is braving dissent from Sachin Pilot and a faction of 17 MLAs loyal to the rebel.
Beniwal’s tweets have added a twist to the internal feud of the Indian National Congress (INC) in Rajasthan. He suggests Vasundhara Raje is trying to sabotage the rebel camp.
“Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has called up Congress MLAs close to her and asked them to support Ashok Gehlot. She has called each and every Jat MLA in Sikar and Nagaur and asked them to keep a distance from Sachin Pilot, I have proof of this,” tweeted Nagaur MP Beniwal.
Beniwal, of course, is a known Vasundhara Raje baiter. He quit the BJP just before the 2018 Rajasthan election, which resulted in an INC victory. However, that can hardly be held against him as the mood of the electorate was clearly anti-Raje rather than anti-Modi. It was widely observed after the poll result was out that the BJP could have secured its continuation in power in the state if the party leadership had announced a different chief ministerial candidate — even at the eleventh hour.
Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Punia said the party had urged Beniwal not to make statements like that. “Our leaders spoke to him. Vasundhara Raje is our respected leader,” Punia said.
But the above was not the only thing Beniwal tweeted. He wrote in another post, “Former CM Vasundhara Raje is trying her best to save the minority government of Ashok Gehlot. She has called several INC MLAs.”
Vasundhara Raje has not responded to the allegation. The BJP, it seems from Punia’s statement, isn’t still ready to dump her while its bid, if any, to regain power is not as obvious as it was in the case of Shivraj Singh Chouhan while Kamal Nath was ruling Madhya Pradesh. That has, nevertheless, not stopped the INC and a section of the media from making the allegation that the BJP is actively backing Sachin Pilot’s rebellion for a ‘coup’ on the lines of Madhya Pradesh.
A BJP meeting the day before yesterday that Vasundhara Raje was supposed to attend was cancelled, though.
Yesterday, BJP MLA Ghulab Chand Kataria, the leader of opposition in the Rajasthan assembly, distanced the party from calls for a floor test for the Gehlot government. “We do not feel such need (for a floor test) as of now. If we feel the need, the party (BJP) will sit together and make a decision,” said Kataria.
Made in the evening of 15 July, the comment suggested that Pilot’s camp no longer inspires confidence in the BJP, which is in a better position to judge him, given that he went with his loyalists to ML Khattar-ruled Haryana.
On the other hand, if Ashok Gehlot is right about 109 MLAs supporting him, the chief minister needs only 101 of them in a trust vote.
Whereas if Pilot has at least 20 MLAs, as he claims, rather than 16 or 17 seen at a hotel in Manesar, his support will prove inadequate to bring the 72-MLA-empowered BJP back in power.
This morning, Pilot and other rebels dragged the INC to court over disqualification notices served to them yesterday. If the anti-defection law does not apply to them, leading to their disqualification from the assembly, Gehlot’s government can at best be uncomfortable.
INC believes Pilot is buying time to win over more MLAs. The BJP needs around 30 MLAs to topple the Gehlot government.
Finally, while Raje has always been a temperamental subject in Rajasthan BJP — with two big factions supporting and opposing her whenever she is in power — she now has an additional concern, a highly placed source in the party leadership said. He said if Pilot is let in, which helps Raje regain chief ministry, he may demand a larger share of the pie, which she cannot afford to part with.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the former BJP president whom many believe still enjoys more clout in the party than JP Nadda, is not interested as of now in the power game in Rajasthan, the source said. While he is not on good terms with Raje, the BJP leadership recognises the fact that the former chief minister has an iron grip over most of their MLAs in the state. Other sources in the BJP say there is no eagerness in the party’s central leadership to see the end of the Gehlot government.