- Sachin Pilot said Ashok Gehlot government is in minority
- The Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister claimed 30 MLAs support him
- His revolt comes 3 months after Congress lost Madhya Pradesh to BJP
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"Rajasthan Deputy CM & Congress leader Sachin Pilot not to attend Congress Legislative Party meeting scheduled to be held on Monday. Mr Pilot says Ashok Gehlot Govt in minority after over 30 Congress and some independent MLAs have pledged support to Sachin Pilot," a message from Mr Pilot's office read.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot held a legislature party meeting at his residence on Sunday evening, after which the party issued a message of solidarity. At the late-night press conference after the meeting, the party said it has 109 MLAs on its side. "A total of 109 MLAs have signed a letter expressing their trust and support to Rajasthan government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and leadership of Sonia Gandhi-ji and Rahul Gandhi-ji," Rajasthan Congress in-charge Avinash Pande said. "A few more MLAs had telephonic conversations with the Chief Minister and the will also sign letter of support till morning," he said. The party leader also said that the Congress delegation went to Jaipur on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's instructions. The Congress has issued a whip to its MLAs to attend today's meeting.
Earlier on Sunday evening, the Congress paraded the three MLAs who were in Delhi on Saturday and were known as loyalists of Mr Pilot, before the media. All three said they supported the Ashok Gehlot government. One of them, Rohit Bohra, had earlier told NDTV that his visit to Delhi was "personal" and the other two MLAs also had their own errands.
The tipping point for Mr Pilot came after he was summoned for questioning in an investigation into an alleged bid to destabilise the state government ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections. "Nobody wants to leave his home, but can't continue to put up with this kind of humiliation; my MLAs and supporters are extremely hurt and I will have to listen to them," he told me on the phone earlier this evening," senior journalist and political analyst Javed Ansari wrote in his blog on Sunday.
Mr Gehlot has pointed out that he has also received summons for questioning and it is their duty to cooperate with the police. "No one is above the law," sources quoted him as saying. His claims have been dismissed as eyewash by Mr Pilot's supporters, who pointed out that Mr Gehlot controls the home ministry and therefore, the Special Operations Group, which issued the summons.
Congress sources said the party's central leaders are upset with Mr Gehlot for issuing orders to question Mr Pilot, putting the government at risk in one of the few states where it is in power. "We are confident we won't allow a Madhya Pradesh situation again," a senior party leader said.
The BJP has ruled out offering the Chief Minister post to Mr Pilot, sources said, because of numbers and internal leadership issue. The party needs the support of another 35 MLAs to form government. In terms of the top post, the biggest claim is of Vaundhara Raje, the BJP's tallest leader in the state.
Sachin Pilot -- a contender for the Chief Minister's post after the Congress victory in Rajasthan in 2018 -- was given the post of the Deputy Chief Minister. But the award of the state Congress chief's post to him -- in recognition of his work in rebuilding the state party -- has irked Mr Gehlot, sources said. There have been talks of removing him from the post, which he has been holding for six years, sources said.
The Congress holds 107 seats in the 200-strong Rajasthan Assembly and has the support of 12 Independent candidates. In addition, five MLAS from other parties -- the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the CPM and the Bharatiya Tribal Party - support Mr Gehlot, who claimed on Saturday that the BJP was offering up to Rs 15 crore to MLAs to switch sides.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Nath government collapsed in March when Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP with 22 MLAs after a long-drawn power tussle between the party's old guard and the new. "Sad to see my erstwhile colleague, @SachinPilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan CM, @ashokgehlot51. Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the @INCIndia," Mr Scindia tweeted today.