Rajasthan Congress MLA Shanti Kumar Dhariwal today launched a fierce attack on the party's Central observer and state in-charge Ajay Maken, alleging that there was a deep "conspiracy" to remove Ashok Gehlot from the Chief Minister's post, Mr Maken, he said, was working to promote Mr Gehlot's arch-rival Sachin Pilot.
"I accuse the Secretary General in charge of Rajasthan of being biased... He is canvassing for Pilot and wants to make him the Chief Minister... People got angry and called me," said the Ashok Gehlot loyalist, who hosted the parallel meeting of MLAs yesterday.
After the meet, 92 MLAs skipped the scheduled legislature party meeting where a successor to Mr Gehlot was to be named. Instead, they went to meet the Speaker, threatening mass resignation to pre-empt any move of central leaders to name Mr Pilot for the top post. The MLAs had also refused to have one-on-one meetings with the Central leaders, countering party chief Sonia Gandhi's move to resolve the situation.
Mission unsuccessful, Mr Maken returned to Delhi today and accused the MLAs of "indiscipline". Their three-point demand -- which includes a status quo till the next party chief is elected -- was a conflict of interest, he told reporters before briefing party chief Sonia Gandhi.
"A resolution should not have any conflict of interest. Those who are contesting elections and tomorrow become party president, they get to decide on the resolution and this is a conflict of interest. So, it is wrong," Mr Maken had told reporters before leaving Jaipur. Though he did not name anyone, his drift was clear.
Going by the wish of the MLAs, Mr Gehlot will get to take a call on the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan -- a post he wants under his control -- once he becomes the party's national president. Mr Gehlot is the front-runner in the race.
Mr Dhariwal said all this was a "conspiracy" to remove Mr Gehlot from the post of the Rajasthan Chief Minister. He also denied that he had called a parallel meeting at his home, claiming that the MLAs had called him.
The MLAs had launched the rebellion after Rahul Gandhi's comment that the party will stick to the "One-man-one post" rule, negating any possibility of Mr Gehlot retaining the Rajasthan post. But their open rebellion has meant a black mark against Mr Gehlot, whose assurances about being in the dark about this plan has not convinced many.
Central observer Mallikarjun Kharge, who was in Jaipur yesterday, has been skeptical, sources said. The Gandhis and many others in the party feel that Mr Gehlot has "humiliated" the Congress. The episode has put a question mark upon his candidature for the party's top post, several leaders indicated off the record. Others went a step forward and questioned the possibility of his continuation as the Rajasthan Chief Minister.