Rajasthan Congress MLAs who are loyal to rebel Sachin Pilot and staying in Delhi have denied they were forced to stay away from their party by the BJP. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot today alleged the Congress MLAs have been asking the party for help and they want to be "freed".
"The rebels have been calling us for help. They want to be freed. They are being guarded by bouncers and the police, their phones have been seized," Mr Gehlot said while demanding an assembly session to prove majority, which Governor Kalraj Mishra has denied for now since the Supreme Court is hearing the case.
At least three Rajasthan Congress MLAs who are in Delhi have denied they have been made to stay by force. All the three MLAs talked one by one as a person took their statements on camera at a vast green lawn somewhere in Delhi.
"Ashok Gehlot ji, you are a senior politician. We're hurt by the kinds of allegations you are making against us. We have neither left the Congress nor signed up with the BJP. We came here because we are upset with the leaders in the state and how they have been behaving with us. We came to Delhi to give our views to the party high command. Today, he alleged in the media the BJP has kept us hostage, when in fact we have never had any contact with the BJP," said Suresh Modi, Congress MLA from Neemkathana in Rajasthan.
Another MLA, Vedparkash Solanki, from Chaksu in the state, said the MLAs who are with Sachin Pilot are still with the Congress and no one has threatened them or placed bouncers to guard them.
"We came here to ask the Congress leadership to make Sachin Pilot chief minister. We are still hopeful of that. No one has forced us to stay here. Before I came to Delhi I applied for inter-state travel from the magistrate (amid coronavirus lockdown), I came openly, there was no need to be worried about what I was up to. I told them I was going to meet Sachin Pilot. We are with Sachin Pilot and the party," Mr Solanki said.
The third Congress MLA who denied they have been kept under force is Murarilal Meena from Dousa. He said Ashok Gehlot has been making allegations against the MLAs and that would eventually hurt only the party.
"No one has held us hostage. But we are also not desperate to return to Rajasthan... No one in the party in Rajasthan ever heard us. For over a year I have been asking them to give projects for water in my constituency, there is a water crisis there. No one listened to me. Now they are making allegations at us, this is not good. I request the Chief Minister to keep his seat safe, and for that he needs to work properly, not alienate people and not make allegations," Mr Meena said.
Mr Gehlot, 69, is going all out for a test of strength after Sachin Pilot and other Congress rebels threatening his government scored a reprieve from the High Court today. There can be no action for now on disqualification notices sent to the rebels last week, the court said. This means the Speaker cannot take any action against the rebels until the larger constitutional question of his powers is decided. That question will be taken up by the Supreme Court on Monday.