At a time when Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been accusing the BJP of horse trading and making all efforts to topple his government amid the Covid-19 crisis, the state BJP chief has also showered a barrage of questions on the CM saying that his party should set its own house in order before pointing fingers at others.
As the political back-and-forth continues, IANS spoke exclusively to BJP state president Satish Poonia who brushes aside allegations of BJP helping Sachin Pilot who was sacked as PCC chief and Deputy CM recently, claiming that leaders of such cadre have their own influence and fan following. Poonia says that Pilot can be Chief Minister if the situation allows.
A few excerpts from the interview:
Q: Your party has been accused of giving political shelter to Sachin Pilot who has been sacked as Deputy CM and PCC chief by Congress. What is your take on these allegations?
A: Sachin Pilot has been the Deputy CM of the state since last one-and-a-half years. He has also been the PCC chief of Rajasthan since last six years. He has his own stature. In fact, political leaders of his rank have their own influence and following. Why should BJP be blamed for giving him patronage? Allegations made by CM are beyond reality.
In fact, the CM himself has been giving patronage to his own MLAs from Gujarat and MP and has been playing resort politics in Rajasthan since last many months.
Now, why can't Pilot too have his own support from his own party workers in other states? In fact, he is a national leader who has a strong support of people around.
Q: Which side is Rajasthan politics going? Can Mr Pilot be the CM of the state?
A: If the situation allows, Sachin Pilot can become the Chief Minister. In fact, he has taken a big step with this goal in mind. Meanwhile, the matter is subjudice in present conditions and hence it will be too early to judge the facts.
Firstly, he is the one who needs to decide what will be his next step and then we will take a call.
But one fact is clear that the Gehlot government stands on verge of collapse as they will be left with wafer-thin majority if 19 MLAs including Pilot and 3 independents who are out from Congress camp, leave the government.
Q: What shall be the BJP's role in such circumstances?
A: BJP is monitoring all developments. As we are the party with the highest mandate after Congress, we will definitely discuss the issue with our central leaders and parliamentary board and then take a call.
Q: Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has been accused of horse trading MLAs. What is BJP's stand in the issue?
A: Vendetta politics is being played by the CM against Shekhawat to avenge the defeat of his son during Lok Sabha elections from his home constituency Jodhpur. He wanted his son to settle down, however, he failed to garner votes even from his home seat which once stood undefeated.
Now, the state government is playing all illegal means to prove him as accused. The phone tapping audio which has been released by the party has smashed all legal norms. Did they follow legal process before tapping phones of their own leaders and ministers? Surprisingly, the ACS Home said he has no information about any tapping instance.
So there are questions raised why they were surveilling their own leaders. It's clear that they don't trust them.
Q: What all norms seem to be flouted here?
A: The Congress leaders speak of democracy but themselves flout all norms. In Rajasthan, as per the law, people representatives can be investigated by CID, CB officials and not by SOG. But the Gehlot government is flouting norms by letting SOG chase public representatives.
Even when one state government SOG team enters another state, certain norms need to be followed. However, here, no coordination was made with Haryana police.
Further Congress in its 2019 manifesto has proposed to remove Section 124 (a) which finds reference in British era and was slapped on freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak. Now, it is using the same section in its own state.
In third contradiction to norms, Congress officials have made the FIR filed by SOG public naming Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma, Rajendra Singh and a broker Sanjay Jain even at a time when the norms say that the FIR in sexual offences, POCSO and sedition charges cannot be disclosed in public.
Surprisingly, Randeep Surjewala read the transcript of tapping in public going against the norms. CM OSD Lokesh Kumar also released the phone tapping audio on social media going against the norms and hence they have been trapped in the biggest criminal offence.
Q: Mr Gehlot says he has a majority on his side and he shall call the house soon? What is your view in this regard?
A: Mr Gehlot would not have been herding his MLAs in Fairmont Hotel over last one week if he had the majority numbers. During the first CLP meeting at his residence, the party said that they have 109 MLAs with them, however, 19 MLAs were camping in Haryana at that time which came out later. So they have been lying.
Out of 125, (101 Congress, 1 RLD, 13 Independents, 2 BTP, 2 CPM), 19 Congress MLAs and 3 independents are already showing support to Pilot. The ruling govt tortured BTP MLAs, packed them in a car, took away their keys and next day, they have had to stand with Gehlot showing their support. This is how they are bringing support in their favour.
CPM has already announced that it shall stand apart in floor test while one of their MLAs has been suspended by party for casting vote towards Congress in Rajya Sabha polls. One of the Congress MLAs is unwell. Out of 199-membered house, they have 99-100 members as of now which is a thin margin. However, we are waiting for things to unfold.
Q: They are blaming BJP for running the show from behind?
A: It's sad that they failed to check the family dispute on time and now are blaming us for the same. Soon after the party came in power, the differences were clearly seen between CM and Deputy CM. However, no one tried to remove those differences. Recently the CM also accepted that since last one-and-a-half years, he was not on talking terms with Pilot.
Surprisingly, he also says that if he comes back, he shall hug him. So such contradictions have made things worse and surprisingly we are being blamed. We are nowhere in the picture. Basically, it is a mistake of high command who preferred sitting with folded hands instead of taking any action. Surprisingly, even now, AICC leaders including Randeep Surjewala, Avinash Pandey, Ajay Maken are camping here, but it is unclear how they are resolving the present crisis in the party.
The CM flashes a victory sign when his own house is collapsing. Isn't it a contradiction which should be checked by Congress high command?