- BJP ally alleged Vasundhara Raje is trying to help Ashok Gehlot
- Vasundhara Raje has been silent on Rajasthan political crisis
- Sachin Pilot claims at least 20 MLAs are with him
A BJP ally in Rajasthan has alleged that former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, the BJP's most prominent leader in the state, is trying to help Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, whose Congress government is facing a huge threat from rebel Sachin Pilot.
A tweet by Hanuman Beniwal, an MP of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, has added a twist to the Congress versus Congress fight in Rajasthan by suggesting that Vasundhara Raje is trying to sabotage the rebel camp.
"Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has called up Congress MLAs close to her and asked them to support Ashok Gehlot. She has called each and every Jat MLA in Sikar and Nagaur and asked them to keep distance from Sachin Pilot, I have proof of this," tweeted Hanuman Beniwal, who represents Nagaur in parliament.
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Beniwal said: "Her family members and close aides have said she is helping Gehlot, so we won't help you because Ashok ji's sarkar (government) won't collapse."
Hanuman Beniwal is a known Vasundhara Raje critic and quit the BJP just before the 2018 Rajasthan election, which delivered a Congress victory.
Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Punia said Mr Beniwal had been urged not to make statements like that . "Our leaders spoke to him. Vasundhara Raje is our respected leader," Mr Punia said.
Vasundhara Raje has been silent and the BJP has made cautious statements on the Congress turmoil amid allegations that the party is actively backing Sachin Pilot's rebellion to set up a coup on the lines of Madhya Pradesh.
A BJP meeting on Tuesday that reports said Vasundhara Raje was to attend was cancelled.
Yesterday, the party's Ghulab Chand Kataria, the leader of opposition in the Rajasthan assembly, even distanced the party from calls for a floor test for the Gehlot government. "We do not feel such need (for a floor test) as of now. If we feel the need, the party (BJP) will sit together and make a decision," said Mr Kataria.
Last evening, the comment reinforced speculation that Mr Pilot's rebel camp had been considerably weakened and Ashok Gehlot had regained an upper hand with claims of 109 MLAs on his side. The Chief Minister needs 101 MLAs to vote for him in the assembly to retain power.
Mr Pilot claims at least 20 MLAs are with him. Some 16 were seen at a hotel in Manesar near Delhi, which has been the base station for Congress rebels.
This morning, Mr Pilot and other rebel MLAs took the Congress to court over disqualification notices served to them yesterday. If they win the case and avoid disqualification, Mr Gehlot's government can be in trouble.
Congress sources accuse Mr Pilot of buying time to win over more MLAs.
The BJP has 73 MLAs and needs around 30 more to topple the government.
But reports suggest the party's negotiations with Mr Pilot are stuck on chief ministership and Vasundhara Raje is a big factor in that. Though she has been at odds with her party bosses in Delhi, especially Home Minister Amit Shah, the party cannot ignore the former Chief Minister who has an iron grip over BJP MLAs in Rajasthan.