Beyond the pale: On Rajasthan drama

Ashok Gehlot has managed the crisis, but Rajasthan is in for a prolonged political drama

Updated - July 18, 2020 12:39 am IST

Published - July 18, 2020 12:02 am IST

The emergence of purported evidence of horse-trading to engineer a split in the Rajasthan Congress and the subsequent moves by the camps of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot have shown that there are always fresh tricks up the sleeves of Indian politicians. The opposing sides have presented varying accounts of what led to the political crisis that continues to play out, but some elementary facts appear increasingly self-evident. Mr. Pilot has been acting in tandem, if not in connivance, with the BJP, though there can be a dispute regarding the endgame. A charitable view of his actions is that he merely wanted to increase the pressure on the Congress central leadership to intervene in the prolonged turf war he has been fighting with Mr. Gehlot. And it is certainly not beyond comprehension, though a bit startling, that he and the BJP have been colluding to knock down the government he himself was part of until a few days ago. The pattern of activities and the characters all point to the overlap between his plans and the BJP’s. Even before Mr. Pilot made public his displeasure with Mr. Gehlot, the MLAs supporting him were rounded up in a resort in BJP-ruled Haryana. Raising a grievance within the party, whether with the central leadership or in the legislature party, did not need such a step. His subsequent moves only reinforced the suspicion that Mr. Pilot had it all planned out, for a journey out of the Congress, though his destination may still appear foggy.

Unlike in Madhya Pradesh, where a similar sequence of events led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government , the Congress managed to limit the damage. The State police filed an FIR against an alleged middleman, BJP Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and an MLA who has since been suspended from the Congress. The Rajasthan police have set out to procure voice samples of MLAs housed in Haryana who allegedly feature in audio clips that apparently incriminate them in the conspiracy. The Speaker has issued notices to Mr. Pilot and 18 MLAs under the anti-defection law for defying the party whip and not attending legislature party meetings. In a plea by the Pilot camp, the Speaker has informed the High Court that the time to reply to the notice will be extended till July 21. Altogether, this has set the scene for multiple, potentially ugly, confrontations — between two States, a State and the Centre and the judiciary and the legislature. Regardless of the final outcomes of the legal and legislative processes, there is no moral or political justification for this unscrupulous attempt to dislodge a democratically elected government. That this is happening a second time in the midst of an advancing pandemic, a border conflict and an economic slowdown is beyond the pale. That this gets passed off as a fight for inner party democracy or recognition of talent is just preposterous.

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