Addressing a press conference on Friday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said there was a coordinated attempt by the BJP to topple the elected government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, and subvert the voter mandate. “From ITC Grand Hotel in Haryana [where Sachin Pilot is holed up] to Karnataka, there have been attempts to purchase Congress legislators with financial clout. In the midst of the coronavirus fight, BJP and PM Modi are trying to subvert democracy. They had conspired and toppled the government in Madhya Pradesh in the midst of a pandemic. This is when coronavirus cases have crossed 10 lakh.”
Referring to an audio tape making the rounds in the media, Surjewala accused Union cabinet minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Congress legislator Bhanwarlal Sharma of conspiring to topple the government. He read out the transcripts of the purported conversation. “This is a black day for democracy. We have some demands: There should be a Special Operations Group [SOG] investigation into the poaching attempts. An FIR should be registered against [Bhanwarlal] Sharma and [BJP leader] Sanjay Jain [heard in the audio]. There should be investigation on where the black money came from, through which hawala network, and who all were the recipients? Apart this audio, who else was involved in the plan to topple the government?” Surjewala urged Sachin Pilot to come forth and clarify his position with regard to a mention made about him in the taped conversation.
Audio clips had earlier surfaced in which Sharma is purportedly heard discussing with a Union minister about luring MLAs from the Ashok Gehlot camp to Sachin Pilot’s side. Sharma, however, said the audio clips were fake. “This is neither my voice nor did I talk. This is totally fake,” Sharma, who is Sardarshaha (Churu) MLA, said in a video message.
Surjewala said Bhanwarlal Sharma has been suspended from primary membership of Congress, pending verification of the tapes. The party also suspended MLA Vishvendra Singh from primary membership.
Earlier, the Gehlot camp had doubled down on the horse-trading allegations against the Pilot camp, accusing the former deputy chief minister of attempting to topple the Congress government with the help of the BJP. They accused senior Congress legislator Bhanwarlal Sharma, who is a Sachin Pilot loyalist, of making several attempts to bring down the Gehlot administration.
A statement, issued by the supporters of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, said that Sharma was making another attempt to topple the government, this time with rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot. They said Sharma had a history of such actions, saying that he targeted the BJP government in the 90s. “Ashok Gehlot, while being a Union minister and PCC president that time, had always objected to toppling BJP government and had said that horse trading is not a tradition in Rajasthan,” the statement said.
“That Bhanwarlal Sharma is again dreaming of forming a government with the help of BJP by being a part of Sachin Pilot’s conspiracy,” the statement alleged.
Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident Congress leaders had on Thursday moved the Rajasthan High Court, challenging the notices from the speaker to disqualify them from the state assembly. The matter is scheduled to be heard before a division bench of the Rajasthan High Court at 1pm today.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is also a Congress leader, represents the speaker’s office. Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, who have represented the BJP-led government at the Centre in the past, are the lawyers for the Pilot’s camp.
The notices were served after the ruling Congress complained to the speaker that the MLAs had defied a party whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings, on Monday and Tuesday. The Pilot camp, however, argues that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session. In its complaint to the speaker, the Congress sought action against Pilot and the other dissidents under paragraph 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. The provision disqualifies MLAs if they voluntarily give up the membership of the party which they represent in the House. The Congress said in the letter to the speaker that the Supreme Court has unequivocally held in the past that the provision comes into effect when the conduct of an MLA leads to this inference.
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