India

Who Do Rajasthan MLAs In Viral Video Support Now? It's Open, They Say

Who Do Rajasthan MLAs In Viral Video Support Now? It's Open, They Say

"We are not in Sachin Pilot's camp," said Rajkumar, a BTP MLA

New Delhi:

Sachin Pilot managed a big win today with a pair of the country's top lawyers - Mukul Rohatgi, named Attorney General by the Modi government and Harish Salve, who represents India in some of its biggest cases internationally - representing him in court, an arrangement that, many say, is likely facilitated by the BJP. 

Yesterday, Mr Pilot, age 42, appeared to be flailing somewhat in his attempt to emancipate himself from the Congress after declaring he can no longer work with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The party sacked him as Deputy Chief Minister and as president of its Rajasthan branch; after that, he was warned that the Congress will move to have him disqualified as an MLA for defying its directive to attend meetings in Jaipur this week that were chaired by Mr Gehlot. Taking the Congress to court today in Rajasthan is a pre-emptive strike by Mr Pilot and his (so far) band of 18 MLAs, headquartered since the weekend at a resort in Gurugram near Delhi.

Mr Pilot on Sunday claimed that he has 30 MLAs who are willing to walk with him if needed from the government in Rajasthan - an amount enough to bring down the government of Mr Gehlot. But Mr Gehlot says he has 109 MLAs loyal to him - pushing him just over the 101 mark that he needs to remain Chief Minister.

With such a narrow lead, every MLA counts. Mr Pilot's team today claimed the arrival of two MLAs from the rival camp of Mr Gehlot. The MLAs belong a regional party, the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP). One of them, Rajkumar, told that they remain in Rajasthan, are not part of Team Pilot, and plan to meet Mr Gehlot tomorrow "to discuss certain issues."

Two days ago, the same MLAs had posted a video on social media, which went viral, alleging that they were being held against their wishes at the luxury hotel where Mr Gehlot has deposited Congress MLAs to ensure they are not flipped.

Mr Pilot told yesterday that he will not join the BJP. His choice of lawyers, however, furthers talk of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the BJP. Mr Gehlot has been direct in accusing Mr Pilot of not just colluding with the BJP but handling the cash that he claims was being waved at his men to switch sides. Senior Congress sources last night confirmed to that he has been told not to shoot off his mouth while the party's emissaries, upon the request of Rahul Gandhi, try to reverse Mr Pilot's intentions.

However, the party is clear that it cannot sign off on Mr Pilot's condition that he be made Chief Minister - or an announcement be made declaring the promotion will take place before the Congress government completes its current term.

Given today's action, the prospects of any reconciliation appear to have dimmed considerably.