Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday claimed a plot had been hatched to topple his government, which is busy fighting the menace of the novel coronavirus. Gehlot said that BJP, which is in the opposition in the state, was offering crores to Congress MLAs and independents in an attempt to poach them.
“At the behest of their central leaders, how they are trying to topple the government, all of it is now before the public. To the MLAs whom they are approaching, they are offering Rs 10 crore in advance and after the government falls, then Rs 15 crore more. To some MLAs they are offering to pay extra,” Gehlot said in a press conference.
Giving the example of Madhya Pradesh, where former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia jumped ship to join the BJP and broke away 25 MLAs of the Congress, Gehlot said, “The sort of horse trading that we have seen in other states, such things have never happened in Rajasthan. MLAs never resigned like what happened in Madhya Pradesh. They bought MLAs in Gujarat. What has transpired in Madhya Pradesh, something similar they are trying to do in Rajasthan.”
Gehlot said just when his government was trying to deal with the menace of coronavirus, BJP was busy trying to topple him. “It wasn’t so at the time of Vajpayee-ji but after 2014, arrogance has crept into their party, which is busy trying to divide people in the name of religion,” he said, adding that the BJP is misusing ED, IT and CBI.
The chief minister said BJP was trying to replicate in Rajasthan what it had effected in many other states. “They did this in Goa and Manipur. In Arunachal Pradesh, they bought all the MLAs and toppled the government. An ex-CM was forced to die by suicide. Same happened in Uttarakhand in whose current cabinet five ministers are from the Congress. In Maharashtra, they got the oath ceremony done even when they did not have the majority,” Gehlot alleged.
The plot of allegedly toppling the Congress government in Rajasthan is being probed by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the state police, which has issued notices to Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot to record their statement. Notice has also been sent to Government Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi to record his statement.
The move came after the SOG on Friday registered an FIR against two people who have been detained for their alleged involvement in horse trading of Congress MLAs for toppling the Gehlot government. "Notices have been issued to the chief minister, deputy chief minister and the government chief whip for recording their statement in connection with the matter," an official source said on Saturday.
Sources said nearly a dozen MLAs and others may also be issued notices soon.
According to ADG (SOG) Ashok Kumar Rathore, the police was carrying out an investigation in the smuggling of illegal weapons in the process of which they had tapped the phones of some criminals. On June 13, Rathore told the press that the SOG heard a conversation between two criminals who were discussing plans to topple the Gehlot government. He said investigations are underway in the case and involvement of some significant personalities is being suspected.
Two persons, one from Udaipur and the other from Ajmer districts, whose calls were intercepted by the SOG were detained on Friday night. Their phone numbers were intercepted for checking on criminal activities like smuggling of illegal arms and mining explosives, an official said. Their role in the matter and political affiliations, if any, are being probed, he said.
On the basis of the information that came up during the call interceptions, the SOG on Friday registered FIR under IPC sections 124-A (sedition) and 120-B (conspiracy).
The FIR mentions that two persons were allegedly talking about the rift between chief minister and deputy chief minister and toppling the Congress government by poaching MLAs. They also talked about the chances of earning Rs 1,000-2,000 crore by toppling the government, it stated.
The FIR mentions information received through sources about conspiracy of forming a new government and also refers to conversation of the two persons regarding the deputy chief minister.
BJP dismisses claims
The BJP, however, has dismissed these allegations. Satish Poonia, the chief of BJP’s Rajasthan unit, said the fact that the entire case was being based on the conversation between two criminals was laughable. He said that in order to deviate attention from the factionalism within the state government between Gehlot and Pilot, allegations were being levelled against his party. He demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident.
"The BJP has nothing to do with all these allegations. During the Rajya Sabha elections also, they had levelled such allegations which are baseless," said Poonia. "The Congress government has failed to deliver and could not manage the COVID-19 crisis properly. Which is why the state government is just trying to divert public attention."
Refuting the claim, Government Deputy Chief Whip Mahendra Chaudhary said there is no infighting in the Congress. "The BJP is behind the conspiracy of toppling the state government and they have been exposed," he said.
The Congress, which came to power in Rajasthan in December 2018, has 107 MLAs in the House of 200. It has the support of independent MLAs and legislators of other parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal, CPI(M) and Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP).
Soon after it had won the Assembly election, both Gehlot and Pilot were in the race for the chief minister's post. The party high command later named Gehlot as the CM and Pilot his deputy.
In the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections for two seats in the state last month, Gehlot and Mahesh Joshi had alleged that the BJP was trying to poach Congress and other MLAs to destabilise the government. Joshi had also filed complaints with the SOG and the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) of the Rajasthan Police, demanding inquiry and actions in the attempts. Amid the allegations, the Congress and other MLAs were kept in resort till the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls to prevent any poaching attempt.
(With inputs from PTI)