The Congress government in Rajasthan led by Ashok Gehlot sailed through a trust vote moved by it in the Assembly on August 14, laying to rest speculation that the government had been reduced to a minority. Displaying a unified show of strength, all Congress legislators including the 19 rebels led by former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot voted in favor of the confidence motion, by voice vote. The truce between the warring factions of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot was brokered after the central leadership agreed to address the grievances of the rebels and hear all sides. A three-member committee was set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Ashok Gehlot, on his part, made reconciliatory gestures looking for a patch-up. The suspension of membership of two Cabinet Ministers, both Sachin Pilot loyalists, was revoked. Despite this, at the Congress Legislature Party meeting held at his house a day before the trust vote Gehlot observed that he would have managed even without the 19 rebel MLAs. The Congress central command, meanwhile, instructed the rival camps to refrain from giving interviews even though Sachin Pilot had given almost a dozen interviews explaining his “side” of the story.
The 200-member Assembly comprises 107 legislators of the Congress, 72 of the Bharatiya Janata Party, three of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, two each of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Tribal Party, one of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and 13 independents. Ashok Gehlot claimed that he had the support of all the independents plus the CPI(M) and BTP legislators and the lone member of the Rashtriya Lok Dal. For a simple majority the government needed the support of 101 members.
In the Assembly, the Congress led by senior leader Shanti Dhariwal went on a frontal attack against the BJP, replete with references to its hand in the Congress crisis. The BJP declared that it would move a no-confidence motion but did not do so. Satish Poonia, BJP legislator and State unit president, attacked the government for keeping Congress MLAs captive before the Assembly session. There were counter charges too as BJP MLAs had also been taken to “safe havens”. Denying that the BJP had any role in the factionalism of the Congress, Leader of the Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria reminded Ashok Gehlot of the barbs he had directed at Sachin Pilot.
In the Assembly, Sachin Pilot was allotted a seat near where the independents and the opposition were seated. As Deputy Chief Minister his seat was next to Ashok Gehlot’s. He put up a brave face saying that only the bravest soldier was sent to the “border”, the border referring to his seat in the Assembly. Addressing mediapersons outside the Assembly, he made light of his new seat and said that seating arrangements were not as important as meeting the expectations of the people.
Gehlot on his part attacked the BJP for “toppling governments” in other parts of the country and for hatching a conspiracy against his government.
For now, the rebels have returned to the fold and the government faces no imminent danger of facing a trust vote or being reduced to a minority at least for the next six months.