Congress deplanes rebellious Pilot

Published : July 15, 2020 07:00 IST

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (right) with Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, in Jaipur on September 19, 2019. Photo: PTI

On July 14, the Congress leadership removed Sachin Pilot as president of its Rajasthan unit and Deputy Chief Minister for staging an open revolt and attempting to destabilise the Ashok Gehlot-led government.

The Congress Legislative Party (CLP) met on July 14 for the second time in two days and decided to remove Pilot and two Ministers close to him from the State Cabinet. The central leadership endorsed the move after talks to placate a disgruntled Pilot failed.

Pilot, who had stayed away from both the CLP meetings, moved to a hotel in Haryana with some MLAs who support him.

In the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly, the Congress has 107 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 72, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party three, two each from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a new tribal outfit called the Bharatiya Tribal Party, and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal. There are 13 independents, a majority of them Congress rebels. For the BJP to come to power, it needs the support of 29 MLAs to attain a simple majority.

Dissent within the Congress gained momentum in the second week of July when Ashok Gehlot stated on July 10 that there was a conspiracy by the BJP to topple the government.

The Rajasthan police registered a first information report against two persons who had, in a conversation, referred to a rift between the Chief Minister and his deputy and the possibility of the government being destablised by luring legislators.

On July 12, Gehlot accused the BJP of offering huge sums of money to his legislators, a charge that the BJP denied. The Special Operations Group of the State Police issued notices to Gehlot, Pilot and Mahesh Joshi, the party's chief whip in the Assembly, for recording their statements.

Pilot perceived the notice as a slight on him because Gehlot is also the Home Minister and he felt that this was done deliberately to insult him.

It became the tipping point for Pilot, who had been feeling sidelined. He believed that he was responsible for the party’s victory in the State but his claim for chief ministership was not considered.

As the revolt was brewing, Gehlot began mustering the support of his MLAs and put them up in a hotel in Jaipur fearing that they would be poached by the BJP.

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