Sachin Pilot In Talks With BJP, Claims Support of 19 MLAs, Say Sources
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A letter asking Sachin Pilot to appear for questioning in an investigation into alleged attempts to destabilize the state government is believed to have pushed the Congress crisis to breaking point. Mr Pilot was summoned by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad and the Special Operations Group on Friday over the complaint filed ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections byRajasthan Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said yesterday that the BJP, the main opposition in the state, was offering MLAs up to Rs 15 crore or "favours" to switch allegiances and help topple his government.
"We keep hearing talk of money being offered to MLAs to switch sides. Some have been promised up to Rs 15 crore and some have been assured of other favours. What they first did covertly, they now do overtly. You saw this in Goa, Madhya Pradesh and the north-eastern states," Mr Gehlot told last evening.
"We are confident we won't allow a Madhya Pradesh situation to take place again," a senior leader in the party told today. "An attempt is being made to break our government. A lot of money is being given and promised by the Centre and the BJP," sources said.
Sachin Pilot - a contender for the Chief Minister's post after the Congress victory in Rajasthan in 2018 -- was given the post of the Deputy Chief Minister and the state Congress chief.
The top leadership's recognition of Mr Pilot's work in rebuilding the party in the state after its decimation at the hands of the BJP and the reward of heading the state party unit has continued to irk Mr Gehlot.
The differences between Mr Pilot and the Chief Minister have been surfacing regularly. Last year, after the Lok Sbaha elections, Mr Gehlot blamed Mr Pilot for his son's defeat. "Pilot should take responsibility," the Chief Minister had said.
The Congress holds 107 seats in the 200-strong Rajasthan Assembly and has support from 12 independent candidates. In addition, five MLAS from other parties -- the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the CPM and the Bharatiya Tribal Party - support Mr Gehlot.
Ahead of last month's Rajya Sabha elections, the Congress, unsettled by events in Madhya Pradesh and faced with similar events in Gujarat, moved its MLAs to a resort. At the time, Mr Gehlot had told he had heard "reports that the BJP is willing to spend up to 25 to 30 crore per MLA".
In Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Nath government had collapsed in March after Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP with 22 MLAs after a long drawn power tussle between the party's old guard and the new.