Pilot-Gehlot power tussle threatens Congress govt in Rajasthan

Rajasthan power games: Cong MLAs meet Gehlot amid speculation over Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot

Jaipur: Even as the battle of one-upmanship between two Congress camps led by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot plays out in the open, state Congress leaders are busy working the numbers and calculating permutations and combinations to ensure the party's government remains safe.

The Congress strength in 200-member Assembly is 102, with its Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance having one MLA. After 6 Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs joined the Congress, the ruling party's score in the House climbed up to 108. Support of 13 Independents, 2 Bharatiya Tribal Party and two CPI-M MLAs, its tally stands at 125.

Meanwhile, the BJP has 72 MLAs, with 3 lawmakers from alliance partner Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.

Party sources confirmed that around 20-25 MLAs could back Pilot and if they leave the party, the Congress numbers will fall under 100 while the BJP numbers will touch 100.

So, the situation remains interesting in Rajasthan.

On the other hand, BJP state President Satish Poonia told IANS that the ongoing crisis within the Congress was created by the party itself and was due to infighting. "We have no role in it," he said.

PCC vice-president Archana Sharma told IANS that Gehlot has the numbers and the state government is in safe hands.

Meanwhile, Pilot is in Delhi and requested for an appointment with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to discuss the "challenges faced by his team due to the high-handedness of Gehlot".

As he waits for an appointment, Gehlot has been keeping a tab on his MLAs and ministers in Rajasthan and asking about their locations on phone.

Security at the inter-state borders has been enhanced and MLA movement continuously monitored.

What raises apprehensions in the entire episode is the absence of ministers from the pilot camp at a Saturday night meeting called by Gehlot.

One of Pilot's favourites and Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh has since left for Delhi, though he tweeted that he was to meet his sister.

The MLAs camping in Delhi in a show of solidarity with Pilot include GR Khatana, Murarilal Meena, Rakesh Pareek, PR Meena, Harish Meena, Indraj Gurjar, Ramniwas Gawadiya, Prashant Bairwa, Chetan Dudi, Jahida Khan, Rohit Behra, Danish Abrar, Mukesh Bhakar, Sudarshan Rawat, and Amar Singh Jatav.

So, while all eyes are now focused on what all action the Congress high command will take to keep the MLAs united, eager party loyalists are busy counting and recounting the numbers on their fingertips and assuring themselves that the Gehlot government will survive the political turmoil.

12 MLAs at Maneser hotel

Twelve Congress legislators of Rajasthan, who have put the Ashok Gehlot government in quandary after reportedly deciding to extend support to the BJP, are camping at ITC Grand Bharat, the five-star hotel in Maneser of the Gurugram district.

According to a top BJP source in Haryana, they belonged to the Sachin Pilot group.

Around 40 BJP legislators have also been lodged in the same hotel as the top leadership feels they are vulnerable and may go with the Congress.

They were brought here on Saturday evening by influential BJP leaders of Rajasthan and Delhi. Pilot reportedly met the MLAs here the same evening.

The hotel management has set up barricades some 500 meters from the main entrance of the property. Over a dozen bouncers in white clothes have also been deployed to keep the media away from the hotel.

The hotel seems to be favourite of dissident legislators and leaders.

In April, MLAs from Madhya Pradesh were lodged here after the Kamal Nath government lost majority in the Assembly and quit.

Earlier, some MLAs from Karnataka, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh had the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality here under the lens of the local police and intelligence apparatus.

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