Meanwhile, former Rajasthan chief minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje finally broke her silence on the political instability in the state, saying the people are suffering due to discord within the Congress. Here are the key developments of the day:
BJP, Congress trade blame over ‘phone-tapping’ row
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra launched an attack on the Congress a day after it cited audio clips to accuse some BJP leaders, including Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, of conspiring to topple the Ashok Gehlot government in the state.
Patra said senior Congress leaders, including chief minister Gehlot, are claiming that these audio clips are authentic even though the FIR registered by police does not say so.
Yesterday, Congress had suspended two dissident MLAs – Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh – from party’s primary membership for allegedly plotting with the BJP to topple the Rajasthan government after the audio clip of the purported conversation between Sharma and Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat came out. Shekhawat has rejected these allegations and said he is willing to be investigated.
Responding to Patra’s remarks, the Congress said BJP’s demand for a probe made it clear that it was behind the rebellion by Sachin Pilot and others and was involved in the alleged ‘horse trading’ of MLAs in Rajasthan.
“We have all seen, every day a new layer comes out exposing the direct links of the BJP in creating some kind of crisis, trying to commit murder of democracy in Rajasthan. Their only grievance was that when they were murdering democracy, why were they getting recorded and if they were getting recorded, was it legal,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said at a virtual press conference.
Raje breaks silence on crisis, says people paying for discord in Congress
Former chief minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje on Saturday alleged that some people were trying to create confusion on the political developments in the state and insisted that she stands with her party and its ideology.
Her remarks came in the backdrop of Nagaur MP and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party convener Hanuman Beniwal accusing her of having an “internal alliance” with chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who is facing a rebellion from his former deputy Sachin Pilot.
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) 1595065445000
Raje, who had maintained a conspicuous silence till now on the political developments in the state, took to Twitter earlier in the day and said that it is unfortunate that the people of Rajasthan are paying for the discord within the Congress.
Following Raje’s statement, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, which is a BJP ally, launched another attack on Raje and accused her of aiding Gehlot.
“These remarks have no meaning and she should have acted against Ashok Gehlot when she was the chief minister of the state. If she had initiated a timely probe against him, Gehlot would have been in jail today,” Beniwal said.
Eight-member team constituted to probe horse-trading case
An eight-member team, headed by Superintendent of Police (SP) Vikas Sharma of Criminal Investigation Department – Crime Branch, Jaipur, has been constituted to investigate the horse-trading charges registered by the Special Operations Group (SOG).
On Friday, two FIRs were registered by the SOG based on the complaint filed by Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi about audiotapes, which Congress alleged had conversations about a conspiracy to topple the Ashok Gehlot-led government.
Meanwhile, Sanjay Jain, whose name had surfaced in a viral audio recording about horse trading of legislators, was sent to four-day police custody.
The SOG team said it could not locate dissident Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma who is purportedly talking in the audio tapes with Sanjay Jain and Gajendra Singh, who the Congress claims is Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan Congress President Govind Singh Dotasra claimed that Special Operations Group (SOG) team was made to wait by BJP government’s Haryana police until the MLAs inside the resort (in Manesar) were moved out.
“Rajasthan SOG team was made to wait by BJP government’s Haryana Police until the MLAs inside the resort in Manesar were moved out through a secret door,” he said while addressing a press conference in Jaipur today.
“Is this right? Will Sachin Pilot and Congress MLAs explain why they do not trust the police of their own state. These answers should be given to the central leadership,” he added.
BTP pledges support to Gehlot government
The Bhartiya Tribal Party extended support to the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan, the two MLAs of the regional party said in a joint press conference with state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasara on Saturday.
BTP legislators Rajkumar Roat and Ramprasad asserted that their party’s president and other leaders have agreed on extending support to the Gehlot government on the condition that demands related to development of the state are fulfilled.
भारतीय ट्राइबल पार्टी (बीटीपी) के दोनों विधायकों ने उनकी प्रदेश कार्यकारिणी के पदाधिकारियों के साथ मुलाक़ात कर और अ… https://t.co/JT8d1wJe4U
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) 1595074901000
The party had on Monday issued a whip asking Roat and Ramprasad to be neutral and neither support the Congress nor the BJP. It had also told them to neither support Chief Minister Gehlot nor Sachin Pilot in case of a floor test in the assembly.
“BTP MLAs and their party leaders held discussions with the chief minister. They were already with us and have reassured their support to the Ashok Gehlot government,” Dotasara said at the press conference outside a hotel on the Delhi highway where the Congress has kept MLAs amid the political crisis.
Following the BTP’s statement, Gehlot paid a “courtesy visit” to the state governor.
Mayawati bats for President’s Rule in Rajasthan
Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said that Rajasthan governor Kalraj Mishra should take cognisance of the instability in the state and recommend President’s Rule.
She said that Gehlot had openly violated the Anti-Defection law and cheated the BSP for a second time by getting its MLAs included in the Congress.
“And it is also evident he did an illegal and unconstitutional thing by phone tapping,” Mayawati said in a series of tweets in Hindi.
Minutes after Mayawati’s attack, the Congress said she was a “majboor neta (helpless leader)” who had certain “compulsions, fears and helplessness” because of which she was making such comments.
Mayawati’s anger against Gehlot has been simmering since all six BSP MLAs who won the Rajasthan assembly elections in 2018 abandoned the party and merged with the Congress.
Gehlot camp MLAs performing yoga, getting cooking tips at 5-star hotel
Far from the political slugfest, Rajasthan Congress MLAs of Ashok Gehlot camp are engaging themselves in various activities at a five-star hotel on the Delhi Highway where they have been staying since Monday.
In many photos and videos doing the rounds on social media, some of the legislators are seen doing yoga in the hotel lawn, crowding around a chef cooking food, watching movies, playing carom and celebrating the birthday of an MLA.
In a video, mostly women legislators including minister Mamta Bhupesh and Olympian Krishna Poonia are seen among others crowding around a chef.
A case has also been filed in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate on Saturday which says that 104 MLAs of the ruling coalition had flouted norms of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the BJP accused the Congress legislators of violating social distancing norms and other Covid-19 protocols.
“The MLAs are seen without face masks and not following social distancing norms. The government is not allowing gathering of more than 50 people in view of the coronavirus pandemic but no such rule is followed here,” BJP state president Satish Poonia said.
BJP leader and former speaker rues ‘immoral’ attempts to ‘destabilise’ Gehlot govt
Veteran Rajasthan BJP leader and former assembly speaker Kailash Chandra Meghwal today expressed his displeasure at alleged attempts to topple the Congress government when the state faces many challenges.
“Rajasthan politics has been derailed. It is unfortunate that attempts are being made to destabilise the government when the state faces the danger of Covid-19 pandemic and also unemployment among its poor. This is not appropriate. This is due to internal feud within the Congress,” he told PTI.
Meghwal, a MLA considered close to former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, said it was “condemnable” that people had resorted to “immoral tactics, ugly politics and horse-trading” to destabilise the government.
(With inputs from agencies)