Gehlot govt wins trust vote, Pilot sees himself as party’s ‘strongest warrior’

The Ashok Gehlot government won a confidence vote in the Rajasthan Assembly on Friday, ending for now the threat triggered by a rebellion within the Congress ranks in the state.
The motion of confidence moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal was passed by voice vote, an expected win after the return of the 19 dissident Congress MLAs led by Sachin Pilot to the party-fold. During the discussion, Pilot said he will fight for the Congress as its “strongest warrior”.
Replying to the debate on the motion, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot criticised the BJP, accusing it again of trying to bring down his government. “I will not let the government topple at any cost even if you make all attempts,” he said.
Gehlot said the crisis had come to an end in a ‘beautiful manner’ and this had hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party.
‘What was done in Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh? Elected governments are being toppled and democracy is under danger,” he said, accusing the BJP of targeting Congress governments.
Without taking names, he alleged that a Union minister was involved in the ‘conspiracy’ to topple his government, saying this had become clear after some audio clips surfaced.
The indirect reference was to Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who has earlier rejected the Congress allegation.
The BJP had earlier said it will move a no-confidence motion against the government, but called off the move after the Congress itself announced that it will seek a floor test.
During the debate, the opposition BJP accused the Gehlot camp of blaming it for the infighting within the Congress.
Gehlot dismissed the opposition allegation that his government was ‘misusing’ the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan Police, and also indirectly countered the Pilot camp’s claim that the dissident leader had been targeted by the unit.
He reminded that he too got an SOG notice, seeking any information on attempts to topple the government.
The chief minister also rejected allegations that the MLAs’ telephones were tapped.
Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria targeted Gehlot over his comments against his now sacked deputy and questioned how Pilot became ‘useless’ after the formation of the government, when he had ‘strengthened’ the party while in opposition.
Mocking Gehlot for keeping his loyalists holed up in hotels for a month, the BJP leader said if the government had a majority it could have proven it earlier.
He also questioned the Congress government over the deployment of the state police at hotels where the MLAs were staying.
The rebellion by Sachin Pilot ended earlier this week after the intervention of the party’s top leadership in Delhi, which assured that his grievances will be heard. On Thursday, Gehlot and Pilot shook hands.
Pilot intervened in the debate, reacting to remarks by Kataria and Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore.
Referring to his seat being changed — earlier he sat next to Gehlot as the deputy chief minister — Pilot said he is now placed at the ‘border’ between his party and the opposition in the House.
“Who is sent to the border? The strongest warrior is sent,” he said.
The House maintained social distancing. Two members sat on benches meant for three and additional seats were placed. Pilot said in the second row on one such seat between two benches.
Indirectly, he also referred to his meeting with the party high command.
“But I want to say that whatever I or my companions had to say, we have told the doctor about our complaints,’ he said, adding that the MLAs were now all together in the assembly after receiving the ‘treatment’.
BJP state unit president Satish Poonia said while the Congress talked about ‘horse-trading’, it had indulged in ‘elephant-trading’ with the induction of six MLAs who were elected on Bahujan Samaj Party tickets in the 2018 assembly polls.
The BSP’s election symbol is the elephant.
The BSP has challenged the merger in the Rajasthan High Court, which is expected to pronounce its verdict on Monday. Its petition is being heard along with a similar plea by BJP MLA Madan Dilawar.
The BSP-Congress merger in the state took the ruling party’s strength in the 200-member assembly to 107, and it also has the backing of some independents and allies. The BJP has 72 members.
After the confidence vote, the House adjourned to meet again next Friday.