Rajasthan Congress political turmoil: Ex-BSP leaders, Independents to hold meeting
There was no let-up in political turmoil within the Congress government in Rajasthan on Sunday, with 19 legislators — Independents and former BSP leaders — planning to meet on Wednesday, June 23, to press their demands to make space for them in the state cabinet or appoint them in key political roles.
Six former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs, who joined the Congress in September 2019 after a rebellion by ex-deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot against the state leadership, and 13 independent MLAs who support the government will jointly hold a meeting on Wednesday, people aware of the developments said.
The move comes as the Congress is already in the midst of quelling concerns raised by Pilot and his supporters once again. Last year in July, Pilot and 18 other MLAs rebelled against chief minister Ashok Gehlot but the crisis was averted after the party formed a panel to address their concerns.
An independent MLA, considered close to chief minister Gehlot, said on Sunday that during the political crisis last year, central leaders had assured them of accommodating them in the cabinet or appointing them to key posts within a month. “It has been close to a year, but nothing has been done, and now (Ajay) Maken’s statement in favour of Pilot camp has put us all in dilemma,” the MLA, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
“We stood with the ruling government and still do. In the meeting after discussions with the other Independents and six former MLAs of the BSP, we will pass a proposal reminding the Congress party of their promise (on June 23),” he added.
Congress general secretary and Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken said last week that the central leadership in Delhi was in touch with Pilot, who is a “star campaigner” and an “asset” to the party. His remark was seen as an attempt to assuage the issues raised by the former deputy CM and his supporters.
The Pilot camp has again pushed the government for cabinet expansion and political appointments.
Last week, at least two former BSP leaders -- now Congress MLAs Sandeep Yadav and Rajendra Guda -- made similar remarks. Guda said on June 14 that the role of the six leaders who left the BSP to join the Congress after Pilot’s rebellion was critical in ensuring majority for the Gehlot-led government in the state last year.
“Nearly a year ago, 19 MLAs had left Congress, and had it not been us... the Rajasthan government would not have been preparing for its first anniversary. Why does the high command not understand it? They did not have a majority and we saved the government,” he had said.
Chief minister Gehlot can induct nine ministers to the cabinet that can have 30 members at the most. Congress leaders have previously said they are in talks with Pilot, who was in New Delhi last weekend, to resolve the issue.
On Sunday, another independent MLA said on the condition of anonymity: “We were there with the Congress in crisis and deserve to be given what was promised.” He added that although he supports the agenda of the upcoming meeting, he has “reservations” about inviting the former BSP MLAs.
Political analyst Manish Godha said the joint meeting looks like it is a “counter to the Pilot faction”. “This new faction is to balance and counter the pressure mounted by the Pilot camp, and now also remind the Congress leadership of their promise made to them during the crisis last year,” he said.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the people of the state were suffering due to the government crisis. Party spokesperson Mukesh Pareek said: “Whenever Pilot has been active against the government, Gehlot has put forward the Independents and BSP MLAs... In the end, it is the public, who is suffering.”