Despite the political crisis in Rajasthan showing no signs of abating, the ruling Congress on Saturday claimed that it had a “comfortable majority” in the State Assembly and turned up the heat on dissidents to return to the party fold.
Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Singh Dotasra, who replaced Sachin Pilot , said the rebel MLAs, who had fallen into the trap of BJP, would soon realise their mistake. “If they come back to the party fold, we will accept them with dignity... We have full sympathy for them,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act based on audio tapes allegedly revealing efforts at luring lawmakers with money.
The FIR named rebel Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma as the one making the deals. This follows the two FIRs lodged by the Special Operations Group of the State police.
The Speaker has already served showcase notices on 19 MLAs, including former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot under the anti-defection law.
ACB Director-General Alok Tripathi said the audio clips would be sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for testing. Separately, a Judicial Magistrate's court remanded Sanjay Jain, alleged to be a middleman, to the SOG's custody for four days. The SOG had arrested him on Friday on the basis of his purported voice appearing in the tapes.
Meanwhile in Delhi, the BJP sought an inquiry into alleged illegal phone tapping that resulted in the audio tapes which has been touted by the Congress as an admission of the former’s involvement in horse-trading.
Meanwhile, the Congress government won back the support of Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), which has two members in the Assembly, when a delegation of party leaders handed over a letter of support to Mr. Gehlot on Saturday. The BTP had earlier issued a whip to its two MLAs to remain neutral in case of a floor test. The Congress had earlier claimed the support of 109 MLAs in the house of 200.
Mr. Dotasra said at a press conference that the police in BJP-ruled Haryana had helped the MLAs supporting Mr. Pilot escape from a resort when a team of SOG came looking for them. “The MLAs inside the resort in Manesar were moved out through a secret door,” he said.
The PCC chief asked why Mr. Pilot, who was sacked as the Deputy Chief Minister, and the dissident MLAs did not trust the police force of their own State. “Why is the Haryana government taking special care of legislators from Rajasthan? What is cooking up?”
The party said it had saved its numbers by remaining alert during last month’s Rajya Sabha elections, when the BJP had shaped its strategy to topple the government. A senior Congress functionary in Delhi said Mr. Pilot was welcome in the party, but a leader in the Pilot camp said the actions of party leaders indicated the opposite.
Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariawas and Health Minister Raghu Sharma flanked Mr. Dotasra at the press meet, held at the luxury hotel where the Congess MLAs have been staying since the turmoil started after Mr. Pilot’s rebellion. Both the Ministers accused the BJP of hatching the “conspiracy” to pull down the legitimately elected State government.