In the Sachin Pilot-Congress truce after a month-long rebel crisis, a key role was played by the BJP’s reality in Rajasthan and the quiet power of its former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia. Sachin Pilot’s meeting with the Gandhis for the first time since his revolt set the stage for reconciliation just four days before a likely test of strength in the Rajasthan assembly.
The BJP, accused by the Congress of snatching power in states by luring its MLAs, officially kept a distance from the Ashok Gehlot government’s crisis, calling it the Congress’s “internal problem”.
The BJP’s Rajasthan chief Satish Poonia tweeted: “We had been saying all along – it is the Congress’s internal fight and it was needlessly blaming BJP. Poor Rajasthan had to watch Congress’s 31-day Ramlila…sister Priyanka Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi woke up late…” He added: “Now that your crisis is resolved, apologise to the people and do some work.”
Mr Gehlot accused the BJP of collaborating with his estranged former deputy, Sachin Pilot, to stage a coup. The Congress even accused Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat of a role in bribing Congress MLAs and filed a complaint against him based on audio tapes that emerged online.
The BJP’s hand, said the Congress, was clear also in the fact that Sachin Pilot’s 18 rebels were staying in resorts in Haryana, a BJP-ruled state. When a Special Operations Group team from Rajasthan came searching for rebel MLAs accused of deal-making, they were blocked by a large team of Haryana policemen. Sources say secret meetings of rebels with BJP leaders were also allowed in buildings officially designated as coronavirus quarantine centres.
But the BJP officially maintained it had nothing to do with the Congress crisis, and would not push for a test of strength. Sources say the party had no choice, given the loud silence of its Rajasthan powerhouse Vasundhara Raje Scindia.
Vasundhara Raje reportedly refused to fall in with any plan to join forces with the rebels to pull down the Congress government.
The BJP was forced to cancel a meeting which she was to attend but reportedly did not plan to.
In the past month, since rebellion broke out in the Congress, Ms Raje posted just one tweet on July 18, saying the people of Rajasthan were paying the price for the Congress crisis. “There is no point in trying to drag the BJP and the BJP leaders’ names through the mud. It is the interest of our people that must remain paramount,” she wrote.
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) July 18, 2020
Sources say without the former Chief Minister’s cooperation, the BJP could do little. Rajasthan is the rare state where regional leaders enjoy more influence over MLAs than the central leadership. The BJP has 72 MLAs in the state and 45 of them are extremely loyal to Ms Raje.
Mr Gehlot claims the support of 102 MLAs in the 200-member assembly, which is just one over the majority mark. The 19 rebels, along with the BJP’s 72 and other smaller parties and independents, could seriously threaten his government.
Tired of waiting for more Congress MLAs to leave Mr Gehlot’s side, the rebel MLAs reportedly realized they had very little room to negotiate with the BJP.