Rajasthan crisis: BJP to table no-confidence motion against Gehlot govt

Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot met for the first time since their public clash that brought the Congress government in Rajasthan on the verge of collapse (Photo: Twitter)
Ahead of a crucial Assembly session that begins from Friday, at which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday resolved to table a no-confidence motion against the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan, the threats to the government from within receded to the background.

The Congress has 107 MLAs in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly. The majority mark is 101. With the support of Independents and smaller parties, the party enjoys the backing of 125 MLAs. The BJP has 72 MLAs and three allies. 

The recent schism between Gehlot and his former deputy chief minister, Sachin Pilot, had resulted in the Congress’ numbers plunging to 101, thereby raising questions on the longevity of the government. 

Before the session begins, a reconciliation — that political analysts are describing as purely temporary — between Gehlot and Pilot saw the two leaders shake hands, smile and sit at the same table with their supporters together.

The suspension notices on two of the Pilot camp’s most important leaders, B L Sharma and Vishvendra Singh, were withdrawn. Party General Secretary K C Venugopal has also reached Jaipur to ensure the smooth running of the session.

Venugopal is a part of a committee designated by interim party president Sonia Gandhi to enquire into specific grievances of Pilot. While this committee emasculates the authority of Gehlot, he is not complaining about it, given the fact that his position as chief minister is not as wobbly as it was a week ago.

Pilot and Gehlot sat together at the meeting seemingly betraying no rancour after the month-long standoff where the two camps exchanged bitter words. However, on Thursday morning, Gehlot cleared the air by tweeting that he was for “forget and forgive” and moving on.

During the period of standoff, Gehlot had been guarding 100-odd MLAs at hotels. Pilot and 18 rebels returned to Jaipur on Tuesday after ending a month-long rebellion.

The truce was announced on Monday after Pilot met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. They had reassured the aggrieved leader that his grievances would be looked into.

“The Congress’ fight is to save democracy under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. In the past one month, whatever internal discord happened within the Congress party, we have to, for the state, for the country and for the people for Rajasthan, move on with the spirit of forget-and-forgive,” Gehlot tweeted in Hindi on Thursday.

There are ambivalent elements among the supporters of both leaders who are unhappy at the truce and would have preferred a new alignment of forces.

Gehlot’s supporters feel Pilot brought little to the table and his exit would not have mattered to the overall stability of the government. On the contrary, Pilot’s camp is sullen that it has had to eat crow even after the way the MLAs were humiliated and made to look small. They also feel betrayed that the BJP that promised to help them, did not step up to the plate.

While realists on both sides acknowledge that they have had to swallow their pride, most analysts believe that the truce will not last long. One indication of Gehlot’s generosity will be the seating arrangements in the assembly — now that Pilot is no longer deputy chief minister and party leader, where he will be seated is the question local leaders are asking.

This Assembly session might go off without much difficulty now that the two sides have made up, things are not expected to be smooth in the government in the future — especially when Gehlot undertakes a cabinet reshuffle to replace the ministers from the Pilot camp who were sacked.

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