Rajasthan political crisis: BJP waiting in wings, watching events unfold
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday made friendly overtures to rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot after he was sacked as the deputy chief minister and Rajasthan Congress chief amid his face-off with Ashok Gehlot.
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is a BJP Parliament member from Rajasthan, said the party has grown manifold and any leader with the people’s mandate is welcome to join it. Another BJP lawmaker, Om Mathur, echoed him.
The comments came shortly after Gehlot blamed the BJP for conspiring with Pilot to topple his government. Mathur rejected the allegation saying “by shutting the eyes one does not erase the sun”. In a tweet, he said “the structure of your house is weak” and questioned how could Gehlot blame the BJP for it.
The BJP sharpened its attack on the Congress leadership for blaming it for the crisis in Rajasthan. It also shifted its stance from watching from the sidelines to taking on an aggressive posture.
Shekhawat called the events unfolding in Rajasthan a diversionary tactic. He likened them to the Bollywood trend of “propaganda” to make a film work if it seems it will not do well. “This is what has happened in Rajasthan where the government has been unable to provide good governance, and crime and corruption have grown. In the last one and a half years, the way the Congress has been ruling in Rajasthan, it is only natural that they would have created propaganda,” he said.
He blamed Gehlot for orchestrating the discord and said he has directed, produced, and acted in “the film” that was in the making for the last six months. Shekhawat said Gehlot “seemed very happy” when he stepped out of the governor’s house on Tuesday whereas lawmakers have been held against their wishes.
Shekhawat said Gehlot has been successful in planning Pilot’s ouster and added democracy and Rajasthan’s people have had to pay a heavy price. “This government is a minority government and making efforts to save its chair...”
Shekhawat’s statement about the government lacking numbers was also an indication that the party could raise the issue of a floor test, even though Rajasthan unit president Satish Poonia told ANI, “At present, we are not demanding anything as of now. Our priority was that it is a corrupt government and it did mismanagement in the coronavirus crisis. It has become a weak government. First thing is that this government should go away in the interest of the people.”
Satish Poonia, the BJP’s Rajasthan chief, said they were not demanding anything as of now while calling Gehlot’s government inept and corrupt. He also accused it of mismanaging the coronavirus crisis. “It has become a weak government. First thing is that this government should go away in the interest of the people,” Poonia said.
A BJP leader in Delhi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, earlier said the party will not seek a floor test unless it is confident that both Gehlot and Pilot factions are falling short of numbers.
Also read: Numbers behind Rajasthan story
Gehlot on Tuesday claimed to have the support of 109 lawmakers in the 200-member state assembly, where the halfway mark is 101. The BJP has only 72 lawmakers.
The BJP has maintained it will keep its options open should the Gehlot government fall in the wake of defections to the Pilot camp. It has made no overt attempts to initiate an alliance with Pilot-led Congress rebels.
Functionaries aware of the matter said senior BJP leaders, including general secretary Anil Jain and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, have been tasked with tracking developments in Rajasthan.
Jain and Pradhan declined to comment on whether there was a meeting between BJP leaders and Pilot. The BJP has dismissed speculation about a meeting between Pilot and BJP chief JP Nadda.
A second BJP leader, when asked about the speculation that the BJP could support Pilot if he floats his party and stakes claim to form the government, said they will watch from the sidelines until it becomes clear that the Gehlot faction does not have the required numbers to stay in power.
“A clear situation has to emerge for the party [BJP] to take its next steps. We are currently watching the Congress collapse because of infighting. The inability of the Congress leadership in keeping the unit together is showing and if the government falls, naturally we will explore all options open to us,” said the second leader in Delhi, requesting anonymity.
“If Pilot has the numbers to form the government, the party will consider support. But if we go by the anti-defection law, he will need 2/3rd of the MLAs with him otherwise they stand disqualified and will require re-election.”
There has also been no statement from former Rajasthan chief minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje on the developments in the state, leading to speculation that she is not on board with Pilot joining the party.
Raje, who claims to have the support of over 40 MLAs, has been at loggerheads with the central leadership over several issues in the past.
The BJP has deputed Mathur to take stock of situation in the state. He is expected to chair a meeting of the BJP leaders in the state on Wednesday.
The BJP leaders have insisted that they have had no role in engineering defections in the Congress.