The Congress on Tuesday sacked Sachin Pilot from the posts of Rajasthan's deputy chief minister and the party's state unit chief, two days after he openly revolted against the Ashok Gehlot-led government in the state.
Though the party seems to have the numbers for now to hang on to power in Rajasthan, the development deepens the crisis in the Congress which has lost two major states -- Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh -- over the past year.
Cracking the whip on the rebel leader, the party also removed his loyalists Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena from the state cabinet. AICC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala announced the decision after a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting held in Jaipur amid a tussle for power between Pilot and Gehlot.
"Pilot was ensnared by the BJP to bring down the Congress government in Rajasthan. We have given him many opportunities. He has been an MP and MoS and a state party president. I am sad that Sachin Pilot and some of his colleagues have fallen for a trap laid by the BJP. This is unacceptable," Surjewala said.
Soon after the decision, chief minister Ashok Gehlot met Governor Kalraj Mishra and assured him of the strength of the ruling party. He also informed Mishra about the removal of three people -- Pilot and his two aides -- from the cabinet.
Gehlot claimed that the defection of Pilot and his aides was being orchestrated by the BJP, while Pilot on the other hand, through a tweet, said that truth can be frustrated but not defeated.
Pilot will be replaced by Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasra as the new Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief. The party is also expected to seek the disqualification of all the MLAs that supported Pilot’s rebellion.
Gehlot is likely to announce the name of the new ministers of his cabinet and they are expected to be sworn in on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Pilot is likely to clarify his stand and announce his next political move through a statement on Wednesday.
In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, Pilot said, 'Satya ko pareshan kiya jaa sakta hai paraajit nahi [Truth can be frustrated not defeated]'.
While intense speculation is doing rounds on the next moves of Gehlot and Pilot, many political observers are also keeping a close eye on the next move of the governor.
If BJP presses for a floor test and the governor gives his assent, an interesting contest could be on the cards where the independents and those of the two-MLA Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) will become crucial. In a statement released on Tuesday, BTP announced that it would support neither the Congress nor the BJP in the floor test.
Congress sources say that the party has the support of 107 MLAs, one MLA each from CPI(M) and the RJD, and that of 13 independents - six more than are necessary to remain in power. BJP has 72 MLAs and its political ally RLP, has three.
"It was quite clear for the past six months that BJP was trying to do here what they did in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Horse trading was going on. The resort [where Pilot and his aides are staying] is owned by the BJP, the same people of the BJP who supervised toppling of governments from other states are now in action managing the situation here," Gehlot said.
He added that the decision to convene the CLP and sack Pilot and his loyalists was necessitated by the almost daily "provocations" as he described it, that were being made by them over the past six months.