Rajasthan crisis: Congress grounds Sachin Pilot; Cabinet meeting today

Truth can be used to harass but can’t be defeated, Sachin Pilot tweeted. FILE PHOTO: PTI
The Congress on Tuesday stripped Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and two supporters of their ministerships and sacked Pilot as state Congress chief when he and his supporters disobeyed a party whip asking them to attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting — but, not before Pilot inflicted significant damage to the government led by Ashok Gehlot.

The Congress now has just 100 MLAs, the half-way mark in the 200-member Assembly. Gehlot betrayed his anxiety on Monday by sequestering his MLAs at a resort in Jaipur, and while the government is safe for now, there is no telling when defections might take place. He is expected to hold a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday and start an outreach to reassure legislators that he is still the party’s leader. “The truth can be used to harass but cannot be defeated,” Pilot tweeted in reaction. His supporters said the “public humiliation” of their leader was “totally unacceptable” and those who treated him badly should be punished. He will hold a press conference on Wednesday to put out his side of the story.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with 73 MLAs, needs more than 25 MLAs to defect. This might not be possible immediately. Interestingly, the party did not demand that Gehlot seek a motion of confidence in the Assembly – possibly for fear that they would not be able to muster the numbers so soon to topple. Nor was there any talk of Pilot joining the BJP with Union minister and BJP leader Gajendra Singh Shekhawat saying: “Anyone can join the BJP if they believe and endorse the policies of the party”.

Sachin Pilot has played a tactical move. But Gehlot’s move have been strategic,” said Narayan Bareth, a local political observer. “While former chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Gehlot started out on a note of bitter acrimony, over time, Gehlot realised that Raje, for reasons of her own, would always stand up to (PM) Narendra Modi and not allow him or Amit Shah to dominate Rajasthan. So he has tried not to rile her, as she could prove to be his biggest buffer against the BJP’s operations in the state,” he said, suggesting Raje might not be enthusiastic about Pilot’s entry into the BJP.

This leaves few options before Pilot — to return to the Congress and begin a fight against the Gandhi family, which is protecting senior leaders like Gehlot; form another party; or the join the BJP, which would risk his support base (Gujjars, Meenas and Muslims constitute a powerful caste-religious alliance in the state; Pilot is a Gujjar).

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