In points: Gehlot still holds the fort as desert storm refuses to subside

Pilot has been sacked as deputy CM and state unit chief, and two of his loyalists removed from cabinet

Ashok Gehlot
Gehlot told reporters that he had spoken to Modi, regarding the letter he had written to the governor seven days ago. Photo: PTI (File)

The desert storm whipped up by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, leading to a political crisis in the state, entered its fourth day on Wednesday (July 15) since he declared an open rebellion against the Ashok Gehlot government on Sunday.

He and his loyalists, however, now stand sacked from all key party posts and the Rajasthan cabinet, though they remain members of the grand old party that holds the fort in the state with a thin majority, fragile to any sudden rebellion or betrayal.

Unhappy over being sidelined as number two to Chief Minister Gehlot after the 2018 polls in the desert state, Pilot flew his renegade of Congress leaders to Delhi and was reportedly holding backroom parleys with BJP leaders for a possible switch.

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The current numbers, however, seem large enough to keep the Gehlot camp on edge. Here are the latest development from the Land of Kings that is, surprisingly, confused over who would rule the massive stretch of land:

  1. The Congress stripped Pilot of the posts of Rajasthan’s deputy chief minister and the party’s state unit president and sacked two loyalists — Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena — from the state cabinet after a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party.
  2. Gehlot met Governor Kalraj Mishra immediately after the Congress Legislature Party meeting. He also accused Pilot of playing into the hands of the BJP.
  3. After being sacked, Singh and Meena insisted on Tuesday that they had done nothing wrong. “Where did we make any statement against the party? We wanted to draw the attention of the party high-command to the fact that we were not able to deliver on things promised in the manifesto for which the public elected us,” Singh.
  4. “Truth can be rattled, not defeated,” Pilot tweeted in Hindi soon after he was sacked. Meanwhile, a video clip circulated by the Pilot camp appeared to show a group of 16 Congress MLAs, as against the “30 MLAs” claimed made in a statement on Sunday.
  5. Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasara, a leader from the Other Backward Classes (OBC), was made the new Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief. Tribal leader and MLA Ganesh Ghogra was appointed the new president of the state Youth Congress, a post held so far Pilot loyalist Mukesh Bhakar. Hem Singh Shekhawat replaced another Pilot supporter, MLA Rakesh Pareek, as the state president of the Congress Sewa Dal.
  6. The BJP accused Gehlot of blaming the opposition for the crisis. “Dear Ashok Gehlot, closing your eyes does not make the sun disappear. There is weakness in the structure of your house, and you are blaming the BJP national leadership for this,” party vice president Om Prakash Mathur said.
  7. Senior BJP leaders from the state said that their party’s doors are open for anybody who expresses trust in its ideology. “Expressing trust in our ideology, if anybody joins us we will welcome him with open arms,” Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said.
  8. Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje of the BJP will attend a party meeting tomorrow in Jaipur, during which the current political situation in the state will be discussed. Raje is currently in Dholpur.

In the 200-member assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs and the BJP 72. In the past, the ruling party has claimed the support of 13 independents, two MLAs each from the CPM and the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal. But CPM and BTP have now indicated that their MLAs could stay neutral till the factional feud is settled.

In recent days, the Gehlot camp has also distanced itself from three of the independents, after their names surfaced in an alleged plot to topple the state government.

Related news: Rajasthan crisis: BTP MLA says he is held hostage, car keys taken away

The current crisis surfaced last Friday when the Rajasthan Police sent a notice to Pilot, and asked him to record his statement over the alleged bid to bring down the government. The same notice was sent to Gehlot and some other MLAs, but Pilot’s supporters claimed that it was only meant to humiliate him.

The Special Operation Group had sent out the notices after tapping a phone conversation between two men, who were allegedly discussing the fall of the Gehlot government.

(With inputs from agencies)

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