Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot says the Congress and its allies have a majority in the assembly and a section of its MLAs are anxious to return to the party fold but are being held captive in a hotel in Haryana. All constitutional and legal options are open before the state government and will be resorted to "as and when necessary", the chief minister told PTI as uncertainty persists over the future of his government following a rebellion by his now sacked deputy Sachin Pilot.
"I want to repeat that we have a majority of the MLAs and even our adversaries know this. We will never shy away from resorting to democratic and constitutional processes in this regard and will take decisions at the right time," Gehlot said to a question on when he will call an assembly session. Asserting that his government has a complete majority of the Congress and its allies in the 200-member state assembly, Gehlot said, "Everyone is aware that a small section of our MLAs have been held captive in a hotel outside the state under the watch of bouncers and police of other states."
He added that he has learnt the MLAs want to "break free of their captivity" and go along with the government. "This will become evident in some time," he said when asked whether the Rajasthan Congress is in touch with MLAs in the Pilot camp.
The Rajasthan speaker had disqualified the 19 dissident MLAs, who challenged the it in the high court. On Friday, the court ordered status quo and said there will be no action for now on the disqualification notices against the dissident MLAs. Any high court order will be subject to the outcome of a petition by the Rajasthan speaker that the Supreme Court is now hearing.
The chief minister sounded dismissive of Pilot and purported attempts to bring him back to the Congress fold, saying the party leadership had been anguished by his anti-Congress activities. "Only the party leadership can give this information. The leadership is bound to be anguished by ongoing anti-party activities by some of our MLAs under the leadership of Sachin Pilot. We will accept the high command's decision in this matter," Gehlot said when asked if Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi had spoken to him about Pilot's return.
He also noted that any decision on Pilot would depend on the high command's approach. Responding to a question on what would be his condition if Pilot wants to return, he said, "This would depend on his future moves, his activities and the decision of Congress high command."
The chief minister was also noncommittal when asked if he regretted the use of harsh words like "nikamma" and "nakaara" for Pilot. He said his words were borne of his pain following the recent developments involving a conspiracy against the party and "blatant disregard" of discipline and basic courtesies. The chief minister also reiterated his allegation that top BJP leaders were involved in the conspiracy to dislodge his government.
Asked about the BJP's claim that current developments in Rajasthan are a reflection of internal Congress factionalism, he said, "Can anyone say that the BJP does not have a hand in current developments in the state… Audio tapes in the public domain, raids on my close aides, hospitality offered to Congress MLAs by BJP-led Haryana government, prove BJP's hand in this matter." Refuting Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's charges that he was being framed to avenge the Lok Sabha defeat of Gehlot's son Vaibhav Gehlot, the chief minister said, "It is not appropriate to link current developments with Lok Sabha elections that were held a year-and-a-half ago."
"Probe agencies are conducting impartial legal investigations based on evidence. In the end, truth shall prevail," he said. The chief minister also said legal proceedings are underway in the matter of the audio tapes that have recently surfaced in the public domain.
"I don't have any further comment on this right now. But I can assure you of impartial police and legal proceedings in this matter," the chief minister said when asked about the BJP's charge that the Rajasthan government resorted to phone-tapping which is illegal.