Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, battling rebellion by his former deputy Sachin Pilot that has pushed his government to the brink, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging attempts by the BJP to engineer defections by bribing Congress MLAs. In the letter dated July 19 (Sunday), Mr Gehlot named Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat among BJP leaders he said were involved in deal-making with rebel Congress MLAs.
"For some time now, attempts have been made to destabilise democratically-elected governments, disregarding the spirit of the anti-defection law enacted by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985 and amended later by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This is an insult to the people's mandate and open violation of constitutional values. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are prime examples of this," Mr Gehlot wrote to the PM.
"I don't know how much you know about this or whether you are being misled. History will also not forgive those who are complicit in these plots," he said.
Written a letter to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. pic.twitter.com/P2TnSoa0Cu— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) July 22, 2020
"At a time when our priority should be to save lives and livelihoods of the masses, the centre has become the main conspirator in toppling a state government."
Mr Gehlot said such attempts were being made even as the nation was in the middle of a fight against the coronavirus. "Saving lives is our priority amid the pandemic. Even at such times, attempts to topple the government are being made. In these attempts, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, other BJP leaders and some ambitious leaders of my party are involved."
He also named Congress rebel Bhanwar Lal Sharma, who is in team Pilot. The Congress has alleged that the MLA is heard in an audio tape discussing bribes for MLAs with Mr Shekhawat. FIRs filed after the Congress allegations name the Union Minister. The same MLA tried to topple a BJP government in the past, Mr Gehlot said in his letter, claiming that he had then opposed toppling a democratically-elected government.
The Chief Minister has accused Sachin Pilot of conspiring with the BJP to dislodge the Congress government in Rajasthan using a template similar to Madhya Pradesh, where Jyotiraditya Scindia's switch from the Congress to the BJP led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government in March.
The letter to the Prime Minister was seen to be an unusual step by Mr Gehlot ahead of key court verdicts that could be game-changers in the week-old Rajasthan crisis.
Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel MLAs had gone to the Rajasthan High Court against disqualification notices served to them by the assembly Speaker after they skipped two meetings called by the Chief Minister. The High Court will announce a decision on Friday, and asked Speaker CP Joshi to pause any action against the rebels till then.
But the Speaker today asked the Supreme Court to stop the High Court from announcing any verdict. Mr Joshi also said in his petition that the High Court cannot ask him to defer action against the MLAs as he is empowered by the constitution to do so. Team Pilot promptly petitioned the Supreme Court to hear it before deciding on the Speaker's request.
The petition in the Supreme Court betrays the Congress's worry that the High Court may decide in favour of the rebels, which would allow them to vote in the assembly and endanger the Gehlot government in a floor test.