The political crisis in Rajasthan took a dramatic turn on Tuesday with the Congress sacking rebel leader Sachin Pilot both as the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan as well as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president.
The party also accused him of colluding with the Opposition BJP in its conspiracy to topple the State government. Two Ministers in the rebel camp were also dropped from the State Cabinet.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who was camping in Jaipur as a central observer, announced the decision after a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) passed a resolution to remove Mr. Pilot and others from their currently held positions. Mr. Pilot and the MLAs supporting him did not attend the CLP.
2 Ministers removed
The Cabinet members removed were Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Meena. Mr. Surjewala announced the appointment of Minister of State for Education Govind Singh Dotasra as the new PCC president, replacing Mr. Pilot.
Mr. Surjewala said the Congress had taken the decision with a “heavy heart”, as its edifice was built around its policies and principles, which were far more important than the individuals.
“Mr. Pilot and some of his associates were swayed by the BJP’s plot and had joined it to topple the government, which was unacceptable,” he said.
The 42-year-old Mr. Pilot, credited with leading the party's successful campaign in the 2018 State Assembly election, has been miffed over a notice issued to him by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan police for recording his statement in a case registered in connection with the alleged attempts to topple the government.
Soon after the CLP meeting was over, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot drove to Raj Bhawan to inform Governor Kalraj Mishra of the decision and make a formal request to drop the Ministers from the Cabinet. He also handed over a list of MLAs supporting him and apprised the Governor of the impending Cabinet reshuffle.
Mr. Gehlot told reporters after meeting the Governor that while the BJP was trying to destabilise his government, Mr. Pilot was playing into the hands of the Opposition party. “The BJP wanted to repeat in Rajasthan what it did in Madhya Pradesh, but its intentions will not fructify here,” he said.
Hand of BJP
Mr. Gehlot said Mr. Pilot and other Ministers as well as MLAs were given ample opportunities, but they chose not to attend the CLP meetings on Monday and Tuesday. “No one is happy about this decision, but it was clear that hobnobbing with the BJP was taking place,” he said, while affirming that he had been impartial to all the MLAs.
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Mr. Pilot reacted immediately through a post in Hindi on twitter, saying “ Satya ko pareshan kiya ja sakta hai, parajit nahin (The truth can be harrassed, not defeated).”
In another tweet, he thanked all those who had come out in his support and changed his profile to delete the reference to his position as Deputy CM and PCC chief.
Other announcements made by Mr. Surjewala about new appointments pertained to Ganesh Ghogra, who will replace Mr. Pilot's loyalist Mukesh Bhakar as the Youth Congress president, and Hem Singh Shekhawat, who will replace Rakesh Pareek as the Congress Seva Dal president.
Earlier, Ministers Mr. Vishvendra Singh and Mr. Ramesh Meena and former Assembly Speaker Deependra Singh Shekhawat released a statement affirming that Mr. Pilot's “public humiliation” was unacceptable to them. “We are seeking to restore our self-respect and are not clamouring for any posts and positions contrary to false reports in the media,” they said.
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The signed statement said the leaders were taking a stand to protect their dignity when Mr. Pilot was threatened with the SOG’s notice.
“This is unprecedented in Indian democracy and the Congress party, for which we have toiled with sweat and blood. Under the leadership of Mr. Pilot, we have made every effort to strengthen the party and bring it to power when it was reduced to an insignificant number in the State Assembly.”