New Delhi: A day after the bitter feud between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and deputy CM Sachin Pilot turned into a public political drama, the Congress sacked Pilot from the post of deputy CM and the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president, on Tuesday. The party accused him of working with the Bharatiya Janata Party to topple the Gehlot-led Congress government in the state.
Along with Pilot, four of his loyalists, including two Rajasthan cabinet ministers who joined the rebellion against Gehlot, were also sacked. They are: Vishvendra Singh, tourism minister; Ramesh Meena, food and supplies minister; Rakesh Pareek of Congress’s Seva Dal and Mukesh Bhakar of Youth Congress.
However, the Congress stopped short of disqualifying the rebel MLAs with an eye on a possible floor test, which the BJP demanded from the Gehlot government to prove its majority in the state assembly.
Gehlot met the governor, Kalraj Mishra, to recommend the removal of Pilot, Singh and Meena from the state cabinet. Later, talking to reporters, the chief minister said, “We are not happy (to sack them), but we were left with no choice. I did not complain to the (Congress) high command to remove them, but their attitude in the past six months was like “aa bail mujhe maar” (inviting a bull to hit them).”
Gehlot then said the rebels were given another chance to return by convening the Congress legislative party meeting, on Tuesday, but they didn’t.
Gehlot said, “No one is happy, not even the party high command. However, it was found that they (the rebels) had stuck deals with the BJP and were talking of forming a new party. As per the anti-defection law, two-thirds majority is needed to break a party, 20 MLAs cannot break the party. … We have 120 MLAs, including 107 of Congress. Now you can understand how much is needed to have the two-thirds number.”
Although Sachin Pilot cited a notice issued to him and others by the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operation Group (SOG) to record their statements in connection with the arrest of two BJP leaders for their alleged attempt to topple the Congress government as a “humiliation” which triggered his rebellion, he had a long-running feud with Ashok Gehlot.
After the Congress’s victory in the 2018 Rajasthan assembly election, Pilot was seen as a frontrunner for the chief minister’s post as he was the face of the party in the election. However, the party chose Gehlot, who was the senior leader and had been the state’s CM before, over Pilot. Media reports citing party sources said this upset Pilot, but things got worse when members of his camp were not given plum portfolios.
Reports citing sources in the Pilot camp said pilot demanded the CM’s post after replacing Gehlot or give a public commitment that he will be made CM at least a year before the next assembly elections in 2023.
The Congress reportedly rejected those demands as “unreasonable”.
Sanjay Jha sacked from party
Meanwhile, Sanjay Jha, who was the Congress’s face on social media, was sacked from the party for “anti-party activities” and “breach of discipline” after he was heard making remarks supporting Pilot.
Shri Sanjay Jha has been suspended from the Congress Party with immediate effect for anti-party activities and breach of discipline. pic.twitter.com/TaT0gWbCc7— Maharashtra Congress (@INCMaharashtra) July 14, 2020
Reacting to this, Jha, while talking to NDTV, said, “Nothing surprises me. What are the anti-party activities I indulged in? The least the Congress could have done was to approach me.”
Accusing the Congress of being intolerant, he said, “We are showing an extremely intolerant culture. I’ve always maintained that until we get our internal democracy right, we will struggle to become a serious political contestant to the BJP.”
All eyes would be now on Sachin Pilot’s next move and if Gehlot can manage to retain the majority in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly and avoid what happened to the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh after Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection to the BJP.