Senior BJP leader Vasundhara Raje has reacted sharply to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s claim that she and two other BJP leaders had helped save his government in 2020 during the revolt of Sachin Pilot. Calling his claims “an insult” and “a conspiracy”, she challenged Mr Gehlot to file a First Information Report if he had evidence that his MLAs had accepted bribe.
In a statement released late this evening, Ms Raje called out his allegations against Union home minister Amit Shah. Mr Gehlot, she added, has insulted her “like no one else in Rajasthan”.
Mr Gehlot’s comments today are seen as a double-edged sword that takes on Ms Raje ahead of the elections due later in the state. At the same time, it is also directed at Sachin Pilot and his supporters, who can pose a challenge to his claim on the top job in Rajasthan case of a Congress victory.
In July 2020, Mr Gehlot’s then deputy Sachin Pilot and his 18 loyalists had revolted against his leadership. The month-long crisis ended after the intervention of senior Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Later, Mr Pilot was removed as the Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress president.
Speaking today in Dholpur, Ms Raje’s home turf, Mr Gehlot said his government could be saved through the support of Vasundhara Raje, former assembly speaker Kailash Meghwal and MLA Shobharani Kushwah.
He attributed the rebellion in the Congress to a BJP plot. “(Union ministers) Amit Shah, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Dharmendra Pradhan conspired together to topple my government,” he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
“They distributed money in Rajasthan and they are not taking the money back now. I am surprised why they are not demanding the money back from them (the MLAs),” Mr Gehlot said.
He also took a dig at the rebel Congress MLAs, saying they should return the money, so they can carry out their duty without any pressure. “I have even told the MLAs that whatever money they have taken, Rs 10 crore or Rs 20 crore, if you have spent anything, I will give that part or I will get it from AICC (All India Congress Committee),” he said.
While Mr Gehlot and Ms Raje are seen as bitter political rivals, their detractors allege they always “go soft” on each other, especially when it comes to corruption allegations. Both leaders have denied the allegations.