The power tussle in Rajasthan between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot continued on Monday with no apparent end in sight. Congress MLAs declared their support to Gehlot in a meeting of the Legislature Party but sources close to Pilot continued to question Gehlot's claim to majority.
Continuing the party's efforts to reach out to Pilot, AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala invited him and the other rebel MLAs for another meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
"To discuss political situation another Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meet will be held here at 10 am tomorrow. We request Sachin Pilot and all MLAs to come, we'll also give them in writing. We've requested them to come and discuss the situation," he said.
They're requested to come & discuss how to strengthen #Rajasthan & serve the 8 cr people together. If there are some differences with someone then they should say that that with an open mind. Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi are ready to listen to everyone&find solution: RS Surjewala https://t.co/DNT3mZr2BQ
" ANI (@ANI) July 13, 2020
In the legislature party meeting on Monday, however, the MLAs had expressed support to Gehlot and urged action against anti-party elements.
CLP meet expresses support to Gehlot
The CLP meet began three hours later than scheduled, with MLAs flashing victory signs for the cameras. During the meeting at Gehlot's residence, the MLAs expressed support for the chief minister and only indirectly referred to Pilot, whose rebellion threatens his government.
The CLP adopted a resolution meeting urged strong disciplinary action against any party office-bearer or CLP member who does anything to weaken the government or the party. The CLP resolution also blamed the BJP for the crisis.
However, it did not mention Pilot, who had made his intention of not attend the meeting clear in a statement issued on Sunday.
There was no official word on the number of MLAs who had participated in the meeting, but party leaders claimed 106 legislators were there.
If correct, this staves off the immediate challenge posed by Pilot, who claimed on Sunday night that he has the support of over 30 of 107 Congress MLAs in the 200-member Assembly.
But at least seven MLAs considered close to Pilot were not spotted at the chief minister's house. According to ANI, the number of those absent was as high as 19.
According to news agency ANI, sources close to Pilot questioned the chief minister's claim of having majority, and asked why a headcount had not been taken and why the MLAs had not been taken to the Governor.
The BJP, too, asked the Gehlot to prove his majority in a floor test.
"...Ashok Gehlot must immediately call for a floor test, prove his majority, save Rajasthan the drama and get on with the business of governance. But if he is herding his MLAs to a resort, then clearly he doesn't have the numbers and is merely delaying the inevitable," said Amit Malviya in a tweet which was later deleted.
Differences can be resolved within family, says Surjewala
Earlier in the day, Surjewala had adopted a conciliatory tone, saying Pilot and other MLAs could still attend the CLP meeting from which they had distanced themselves. "Doors are open for Sachin Pilot and other MLAs. They will be heard and solutions will be found. This is the discipline of the party," Surjewala said.
Addressing a press conference, Surjewala said differences in a family can be resolved within the family, suggesting that Pilot and other MLAs should come and discuss their grievances at party forums.
"When a member of the family gets annoyed, he does not make the family fall but sits with family members and resolves the issue," he said, adding that the party's top leadership spoke to Pilot several times in the last 72 hours.
Sources told PTI top party leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, were in touch with Pilot, assuring that his grievances will be addressed.
Apart from Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, former Union finance minister P Chidambaram and AICC general secretary KC Venugopal are also learned to have spoken with Pilot.
Pilot has been upset since he was denied the Rajasthan chief minister's post after the December 2018 assembly elections.
According to NDTV, Pilot has however said that he did not have any plans for a meeting with Rahul Gandhi on Monday evening.
It also remained unclear whether Pilot, who also heads the Congress state party unit, was in talks with the BJP.
On Saturday, Gehlot had accused the Opposition party of trying to lure away Congress MLAs.
BJP blames infighting in Congress but says open to all options
Reiterating BJP's denial of Gehlot's accusation, party state unit president Satish Poonia said young leaders in the Congress are always "neglected and sidelined" in the Congress and blamed the current situation on infighting in the Congress.
Poonia however said that all options were open when asked about speculation that the BJP may support the Pilot camp from outside.
I-T conducts raids in Jaipur
Just hours before the CLP meeting, Income Tax officials searched premises in Jaipur said to be linked to local party leaders Rajiv Arora and Dharmendra Rathore.
Rajasthan government chief whip Mahesh Joshi condemned the income tax raids on premises linked to two Congress leaders."I condemn this. The raids are uncalled for and intended at threatening but we are not going to be distracted or scared by this," he said.
"The entire country is watching this," Joshi added.
Cooperative Minister Udailal Anjana also questioned the timing of the raids. "This was done to create pressure. It apparently looks like leaders who are sitting in Delhi are behind these raids," he said.
Surjewala blamed the BJP and asked when the enforcement directorate (ED) would be sent.
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" Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) July 13, 2020
According to PTI, official sources refused to comment on reports claiming that the searches were linked to the current political crisis in the state.
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 Bharatiya Tribal Party, and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
The current crisis began Friday night when the Rajasthan Police sent a notice to Pilot, asking him to record his statement over an alleged attempt to bring down the government.
The same notice was sent to the chief minister and some other MLAs, but Pilot's supporters claimed that it was only meant to humiliate him.
With inputs from agencies