The Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan has the numbers to stay in power and the MLAs who joined Sachin Pilot in open revolt will return if allowed to, the Congress said Saturday, amid the political tug-of-war between Team Gehlot and Team Pilot.
“We have the numbers. If not alert during Rajya Sabha elections (last month) we would not have saved our numbers,” minister Pratap Singh Khachariyavas, said referring to allegations the BJP conspired with Congress rebels to destabilise the government. He also said rebel MLAs who returned would be garlanded, but those who joined the BJP would not be forgiven by the people.
Addressing the media, Govind Singh Dotasra, who replaced Mr Pilot after he was sacked as Rajasthan Congress chief, also alleged that police in BJP-ruled Haryana had helped rebel MLAs escape when Rajasthan Police came looking for them on Friday.
“Rajasthan SOG was made to wait by BJP government’s Haryana Police until the MLAs inside the resort in Manesar were moved out through a secret door,” he claimed. Mr Dotasra also questioned the need for police in Haryana to intervene if the BJP really did have nothing to hide.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and at least 18 MLAs loyal to him have been camped out in Manesar for nearly a week. One of the rebel MLAs is Bhanwar Lal Sharma, whose voice is allegedly on audio tapes the Congress says is proof of the conspiracy to unseat Ashok Gehlot.
Both Mr Sharma and Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, whom the Congress has also accused, have denied all charges. NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of these tapes.
The Rajasthan Police team were looking to collect a voice sample from Mr Sharma. The team was briefly stopped from entering and, when they were allowed, said the MLAs could not be found.
The Gehlot-Pilot feud escalated after the BJP was accused of poaching MLAs to bring down the government and the Mr Pilot was asked to answer questions about the alleged conspiracy; Mr Gehlot claimed he had proof Mr Pilot was involved.
A furious Mr Pilot refused to attend team meetings and told Congress leadership he would accept nothing less than the chief minister’s post to stand down his revolt.
The acrimonious dispute turned legal after the Congress served Mr Pilot and 18 MLAs notices of disqualification. They have been given time till Tuesday to reply to these. Mr Pilot responded by dragging the Congress to the Rajasthan High Court.
The outcome of the court ruling is likely to be key for the Gehlot government, which needs the rebels to be disqualified and the majority mark in the Assembly to drop if it is to survive a trust vote that will almost certainly be called for by the BJP.
For Sachin Pilot, to remain as an MLA, with his loyalists, is key as his threat of overthrowing the government disappears if their votes are invalidated. Mr Pilot has also played down rumours linking him with a switch to the BJP. He has twice told NDTV that he is “not joining the BJP”.
Ashok Gehlot needs 101 MLAs in the 200-strong Assembly to vote for him in order to retain power. He claims to have the support of 106. The BJP, which has 73, needs between 30 to 35 MLAs to be sure of crossing the majority mark.
Including Mr Pilot, there are 18 MLAs reportedly camping in Haryana.
With input from ANI