Suspended Rajasthan Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma -- who was allegedly heard conspiring against the Ashok Gehlot government in a widely circulated audio tape -- declared that he stands with Ashok Gehlot after a meeting with the Chief Minister this evening. The rebel MLA, whose whereabouts were not certain, turned up in Jaipur today amid the Congress efforts at reconciliation with Sachin Pilot and his loyalist MLAs who rebelled against the party.
Insisting that the audio tapes were "a lie", Mr Sharma told reporters "I am with Ashok Gehlot".
Mr Sharma was allegedly taped discussing a deal with Sanjay Jain, the man in the middle of the crisis that had the Ashok Gehlot government on the edge of collapse for a month. Sanjay Jain had got him in touch with Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and they were caught discussing cash transactions, the Congress had said.
Sanjay Jain, a businessman from Churu, has been arrested by the Rajasthan police and is currently in judicial custody.
The tapes -- which were widely circulated on social media -- were part of the evidence the Chief Minister claimed to possess about the alleged BJP conspiracy to pull down his government. After the tapes became public, the Congress suspended Bhanwar Lal Sharma from the party.
Mr Shekhawat claimed the tapes were doctored and after the rebel MLAs made a similar claim, Mr Gehlot's government had said they would be sent to the US for forensic tests. Subsequently, the Rajasthan police made repeated trips to Manesar in Haryana -- where the rebel MLAs were said to have parked themselves -- to record the voice sample of Mr Sharma. But they failed to make any headway.
"There was no camp (in Haryana). I went there on my own. I came back on my own," Bhanwar Lal Sharma told reporters today. His visit to the Chief Minister's official residence in Jaipur came today as the Congress claimed to have achieved a breakthrough in talks with the rebels ahead of the assembly session slated to begin on Friday.
Today, for the first time he started his revolt, Sachin Pilot met Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to discuss the terms of his homecoming.
Sources said the Gandhis have agreed to address "all issues" regarding Rajasthan, including Ashok Gehlot's style of functioning. A panel will also be formed to look into Sachin Pilot's grievances, sources said.