Other States

Congress rushes to save its flock in Rajasthan

Screenshot from a video tweeted by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot early on June 11, 2020 shows him speaking to the media “after meeting with MLAs”. Photo: Twitter/@ashokgehlot51

Screenshot from a video tweeted by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot early on June 11, 2020 shows him speaking to the media “after meeting with MLAs”. Photo: Twitter/@ashokgehlot51  

The ruling Congress in Rajasthan on Thursday shifted all its MLAs and Independent legislators supporting the government, to a private resort on the outskirts of Jaipur ahead of the June 19 Rajya Sabha elections.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that the BJP was making “lucrative offers” of crores of rupees to the Congress legislators to change sides.

 

With the first signs of trouble in Rajasthan on Wednesday, the Congress sent party observer Randeep Surjewala and All India Congress Committee Rajasthan in-charge Avinash Pande to Jaipur by a special flight to interact with the MLAs.

Mr. Gehlot convened a meeting at the luxury resort in the evening, as the ruling party charged the BJP with attempts to destabilise the State government. The MLAs were asked to stay put at the resort till the polling day for Rajya Sabha elections, but party insiders claimed that there would be no restrictions on their movements.

Mr. Surjewala said the repeated disregard of public mandate had become the BJP’s character and added that its attempts to topple the Gehlot government would not succeed.

‘Nefarious designs’

Speaking to reporters outside the resort. Mr. Pande, while expressing confidence in the government’s stability, alleged that the BJP was indulging in its “nefarious designs” for the past two months. Huge amounts of money had been transferred to the State for making lucrative offers to the Congress MLAs, he alleged.

“What the BJP is doing is a mockery of democracy. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they are plotting the fall of governments in the Opposition-ruled States. After Karnakata, Goa, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, they have turned their attention to Rajasthan,” Mr. Pande said, adding that the interaction with the MLAs would also focus on containing the pandemic as well.

Earlier, Mr. Gehlot said the Rajya Sabha polls had been “deliberately delayed” for two months to facilitate the “poaching operations” of BJP in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

“What is the difference in the COVID-19 situation then and now? This politics by indulging in horse-trading will not succeed. They have violated all norms of democracy,” he said.

BJP challenge

State BJP president Satish Poonia challenged the Congress to prove its allegation of the party was trying to poach the ruling party’s MLAs and Independents.

“The Congress should set its own house in order. Just nine days before elections, they are forced to hole up their legislators. Instead of blaming the BJP, they should resolve their internal differences,” he said in a statement

A senior Congress leader clearly hinted at an internal divide when he told The Hindu that “the present crisis was a manufactured one that aimed at projecting some as saviours of the party”.

For the three Rajya Sabha seats from the State falling vacant, the Congress has nominated K.C. Venugopal and Neeraj Dangi, while the BJP has fielded its State unit vice-president and former Minister Rajendra Gehlot and former MP Onkar Singh Lakhawat.

AICC general secretary Mr. Venugopal, who earlier represented the Alappuzha Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, had opted out of contesting the 2019 general elections because of his organisational responsibilities.

Mr. Dangi, a former Youth Congress State president, is considered a confidant of Mr. Gehlot. He had unsuccessfully contested three Assembly elections in the past.

With its tally of 107 MLAs in the 200-member House and the support of Rashtriya Lok Dal and Independents, the ruling Congress can easily win two of the Rajya Sabha seats as 51 first preference votes are required to elect an MP.

However, sources say the BJP could be looking to exploit a sense of ‘disenchantment’ among some MLAs for fielding Mr Venugopal, who is seen as an ‘outsider’ in the State.

The Rajasthan development also lays bare the divide within the Congress, both in terms of the party’s choice of Rajya Sabha candidates as well as factionalism between Mr. Ashok Gehlot’s supporters and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, who also heads the Rajasthan Congress.

“While the BJP wants to send a message to Vasundhara Raje by steering everything from Delhi, Mr Gehlot is trying to send a message to Delhi Congress leadership against the State Congress chief. It’s all a well-planned exercise,”said the senior Congress leader who didn’t wish to be named.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:40:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/congress-rushes-to-save-its-flock-in-rajasthan/article31801734.ece

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