Short of numbers for RS polls, BJP tries to destabilise Rajasthan govt

But Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot are confident that in spite of money to the tune of Rs 15-25 crore being offered to the MLAs, the BJP will fail in its endeavour

Ashok Gehlot
Ashok Gehlot

Prakash Bhandari

Destabilising democratically elected governments has been a pastime of the BJP. After doing the trick in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has been trying to bring down the Maharashtra government and has intensified its efforts in Rajasthan to poach legislators in a bid to woo their support to win a second seat in the Rajya Sabha poll. The BJP is aiming to gain support of all the 15 Independents for the Rajya Sabha poll.

But, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has not been sitting quiet. The MLAs who were approached by the BJP met the Chief Minister and pledged their support to the Congress.

Currently, the strength of various parties in the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha is:Congress (107), BJP (72), Independents (13), Bhartiya Tribals Party (BTP) (2), RLD (1), CPI(M) (2) and RLP (3).

The Congress’ numbers include six BSP MLAs who defected to the Congress last year.

The Congress has fielded KC Venugopal and Neeraj Dangi, a Dalit, in the Rajya Sabha polls. The BJP has fielded two candidates, Rajendra Gehlot and veteran Onkar Singh Lakhawat, who once served as a member of the Upper House for a short stint. Lakhawat has worked towards the party’s organization in the state and was the front-runner for the party’s nomination. But, the BJP chose Rajendra Gehlot as its first priority candidate that caused anger amongst the party’s rank and file. The party forced Lakhwat to file nomination as the second BJP candidate much to his own annoyance.

Taking potshots at the BJP, Ashok Gehlot said, “The BJP, at a time of a national calamity, is indulging in destabilising the Congress government in the state. But the game plan of the BJP will not succeed. They have failed to do so in Maharashtra and now they are trying to mislead the Independents and smaller parties here. But these MLAs have pledged their support to the Congress candidates and we would win the two seats comfortably. The Independents, way back in the beginning of the year, had met Rahul Gandhi and extended their support to the Congress. The BJP will not be able to buy their loyalty.”

Gehlot said that the BJP used its influence to postpone the election for the Rajya Sabha which was scheduled on March 24. But under the pretext of the Coronavirus lockdown, it managed to get the election postponed to enable them to do horse-trading, he said.

One Independent MLA, on the condition of anonymity, said that he was approached by a leading BJP personality to help in getting the support of some Congress MLAs to enable the BJP turn tables in the Rajya Sabha election. But instead of helping the BJP leader, he informed the Chief Minister about the BJP’s game plan.

“We have enough evidence to prove that the BJP offered Between Rs 15 crore and Rs 25 crore to buy MLAs. We have reported the matter to the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) that the BJP was trying to bribe the MLA to destabilise the government. Now the ACB will inquire into the matter as this act comes under the category of political corruption,” said Mahesh Joshi, chief whip in the Assembly.

“The Congress is comfortable with its own strength and also of the Independents and other parties. We will not have any difficulty in winning the two Rajya Sabha seats. The BJP is trying to create artificial tension which has become its trademark now,” said PCC president and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot.

The BJP has fielded the second candidate with the hope that after 51 votes, the spare votes will go to its second preference candidate ( Lakhawat). The BJP is trying to woo the smaller parties too. But the Congress has been able to secure the support of the smaller parties to ensure that the BJP does not win the second seat. As of now, the Congress is poised to win two Rajya Sabha seats and the BJP one.

After voting for the two Congress candidates on a first and second priority basis, Congress still will have 23 votes left. But the BJP lacks adequate numbers to enable its second candidate to win on his own. It would require 27 more votes which is difficult to get. The Congress is sitting pretty with its own 107 votes. With support of 13 Independents and the combined support of the CPM and the BTP, the Congress commands the support of a total of 125 votes. Thus, the BJP is far away from the winning numbers. That is why it is trying to destabilise the state government.

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