Congress calls another legislature party meet today; MLAs shifted to luxury hotel
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in Rajasthan on Monday expressed faith in the leadership of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot amid the political turmoil caused by Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot’s rebellion and claimed the support of over 100 legislators in the 200-member Assembly.
With the show of strength at Mr. Gehlot’s official residence where more than 100 MLAs — from the Congress and those supporting the ruling party — were in attendance, the CLP passed a resolution calling for strict disciplinary action against those who “weaken the party”.
Congress has however called another meeting of the Legislature Party on Tuesday morning.
Senior Congress leaders, including former party president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra through emissaries, reportedly tried reaching out to Mr. Pilot, who continued to be in Delhi and refused to attend the CLP meeting.
A source close to Mr. Pilot, however, denied that the central leadership had made any serious attempt to resolve the issue.
On a day of fast-paced developments, the MLAs, accompanied by Mr. Gehlot, were shifted to a luxury hotel on the Jaipur-Delhi Highway, 20 km from the city, soon after the meeting ended.
The resolution passed unanimously, condemned all “undemocratic and wrongful” acts for weakening the Congress and expressed confidence in the leadership of party president Sonia Gandhi and senior leader Rahul Gandhi, besides extending support to the Ashok Gehlot-led government.
“This CLP meeting demands that if any Congress office-bearer or member of the CLP indulges in anti-party activities, directly or indirectly, or is involved in a conspiracy, then strong disciplinary action should be taken against him,” the resolution stated, without naming Mr. Pilot or any other leader.
The resolution also accused the Opposition BJP of hatching a conspiracy to “murder democracy” by trying to destabilize the Congress government and bribe the MLAs. This was an insult to the eight crore people of Rajasthan, it said.
The Congress workers earlier removed posters of Mr. Pilot from the Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters in Jaipur.
Some of his pictures were later restored after a message was sent across that the Gehlot camp had sufficient numbers.
But despite the strongly-worded resolution, the central leadership of the Congress was keen on a compromise and tried to persuade Mr. Pilot to head back to Jaipur.
Former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram, senior leaders Ahmed Patel and K.C. Venugopal is also believed to have reached out to Mr. Pilot but there was no official confirmation.
Before the CLP meeting began, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, camping in Jaipur after being deputed to handle the political crisis, appealed to Mr. Pilot and the MLAs supporting him to raise the issues arising out of “difference of opinion” via party forums.
“The doors of Congress are always open… Talk to us,” Mr. Surjewala said at a press conference, adding that the Congress leadership had spoken to Mr. Pilot about several times during the last 48 to 72 hours.
Nothing should be done to weaken the party or give an opportunity to the BJP to indulge in horse-trading, Mr. Surjewala added.
In an indication of the attempts being made for rapprochement, the Congress chief spokesperson said Mr. Pilot, being the Pradesh Congress Committee president, was a member of the Congress family.
“When a family member gets upset, he does not work to bring the family down. We appeal to him to come with an open mind and discuss all the issues,” he said.
The decision to initiate talks now rests entirely on Mr. Pilot said another senior Congress leader.
Congress sources claimed that the group supporting the Deputy Chief Minister wanted key portfolios like Home and Finance for their nominees and wants the party to retain Mr. Pilot as the Rajasthan Congress chief.
Mr Pilot, so far, has not issued any public statement not has he responded to The News Time’s attempt to reach him for his comments.
Meanwhile, the Income Tax Department officials conducted raids at the premises of two close aides of Mr. Gehlot on Monday morning on complaints of tax evasion. Mr. Surjewala said the IT raids were a clear “act of revenge” and added that the IT Department, Enforcement Directorate, and CBI were all “frontal organisations” of the BJP.