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Rajasthan Congress crisis: Ashok Gehlot summons meeting of party MLAs



Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has summoned Sunday night a meeting of all party MLAs, an apparent show of strength amid speculation over his rift with deputy Sachin Pilot.

Several ministers and MLAs visited Gehlot’s home here during the day while reports said Pilot, who is also the state Congress president, and some MLAs close to him are now in Delhi.

The meeting at CM’s official residence here is scheduled to take place at 9 pm, Congress sources said. Independent MLAs supporting the Gehlot government have also been invited, they said.

The posturing comes amid allegations by Gehlot that the BJP is trying to lure Congress MLAs to topple the state government.

The BJP has dismissed the claim, saying the developments reflect a power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot, simmering since the Congress leadership in Delhi picked the more senior leader for the CM’s post.

Earlier in the day, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal tweeted concern. “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?” he asked.

The crisis surfaced on Friday when the Rajasthan Police issued notices to Gehlot, Pilot and the government chief whip, seeking time from them to record their statements over an alleged bid to destabilise the state’s Congress government.

Sources close to Pilot said the letter from the special operations group (SOG) had upset the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress chief, who apparently saw this as an insult.

But, in a tweet Sunday, Gehlot stressed that the notices had gone to several people. He did not name Pilot, but said that a section of the media had interpreted the notices wrongly.

“The notices have been issued to the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, the government chief whip and some other MLAs. It is a part of the process,” SOG Additional Director General Ashok Rathore told on Sunday. He said as the investigation proceeds, others could also be issued notices.

Independent MLA Babulal Nagar said he is among the legislators issued with the notice.

“The SOG has issued notice to me and has sought time. There are other MLAs who have received such notices,” Nagar told reporters outside the CM’s residence, where he had gone to meet him.

“We have faith in the leadership of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and we have expressed this to him,” he added.

State Sports Minister Ashok Chandna urged party MLAs to take a lesson from the recent developments in Madhya Pradesh, where Jyotiraditiya Scindia switched sides. “Any person who crosses the party line will not be respected anywhere in the world. This is not the time to lose the respect earned over generations,” Chandna said, without naming anyone.

Deputy Chief Whip Mahendra Chaudhary repeated the allegation levelled by Gehlot against the BJP.

“The BJP had conspired to topple the state government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot but the conspiracy has been exposed. The government will complete its five-year term,” he said.

Revenue Minister Harish Choudhary, Labour Minister Tikaram Jully, Health Minister Raghu Sharma also met Gehlot at his home.

Apart from the SOG action, the state’s Anti Corruption Bureau has also begun a probe into the alleged bid to topple the government.

The Congress government has distanced itself from the three independent MLAs — Khushveer Singh, Omprakash Hudla and Suresh Tak — who were named in the preliminary enquiry (PE).

Earlier, the government had the support of all 13 independent MLAs, who also voted for the Congress candidates in the Rajya Sabha elections last month.

At a press conference Saturday, Gehlot had blamed the BJP of trying to bring down his government and cited the FIR registered by the SOG. The FIR is based on an alleged tapped phone conversation between two men, said to be BJP members.

The Congress has 107 members in the state 200-MLA state assembly.


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