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As Gehlot loyalists resign, BJP takes swipe at Rajasthan Congress over crisis

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Jaipur, Sep 26: The BJP has taken a swipe at the crisis in Rajasthan Congress after several loyalists of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot submitted their resignation, reportedly over a possible move to appoint Sachin Pilot as the next CM.

Union minister Bhupendra Yadav posted an old photo of Ashok Gehlot with Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot. The snap was taken four years ago after Pilot agreed to be Gehlot's deputy.

As Gehlot loyalists resign, BJP takes swipe at Rajasthan Congress over crisis

The caption read, "Please get them to join first", a potshot at the Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Another Union minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, wrote, "This is a government that has to be fenced in (a resort). It has to be shut in again".

Following the crisis, the BJP has said it will emerge victorious in the next elections. "The trends have started coming in. Hail BJP," tweeted Satish Poonia, the chief of the BJP in Rajasthan.

Shehzad Poonawalla attacked Ajay Maken, who is in charge of the party in Rajasthan, and said, "I had once told the Congress party leadership that Ajay Maken was not worthy of being incharge of even a booth level committee. Today I have been vindicated yet again,"

On Sunday evening, the Gehlot's loyalists headed to Speaker C P Joshi's home while CM Gehlot, Pilot and MLAs loyal to him, and Congress observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken waited at the CM's residence in the state capital for all legislators to arrive for the CLP meeting.

Gehlot's supporters claimed that over 80 MLAs went to Joshi's home on a bus and private vehicles after holding a long meeting at minister Shanti Dhariwal's residence. Some said they will submit their resignation to the Speaker. Their number could not be verified independently.

The Congress has 108 MLAs in the House of 200. Late at night, there were efforts by Kharge and Maken to persuade Gehlot loyalists to meet them one on one, if not as part of a larger MLAs' meeting.

The CLP meeting was seen as crucial step ahead of Gehlot filing his nomination for the Congress president's post, amid speculation that the former deputy chief minister Pilot will take charge in the state.

Gehlot, seen by many as a reluctant candidate for the top party position, initially appeared unwilling to give up his CM's post. Later, it was speculated that he would rather see C P Joshi --- or anyone else --- as CM rather than Pilot, who had rebelled against his leadership in 2020.

The top leadership then summoned a CLP meeting in Jaipur. Earlier in the day, Gehlot told reporters in Jaisalmer that the MLAs would pass a one-resolution at the meeting calling upon the party president Sonia Gandhi to pick his successor.

But in the hours ahead of the meeting, the MLAs seemed go off script. Late at night, a large group of MLAs were at the Speaker's home. At the CM's residence, a smaller group was believed to be in a huddle that reportedly included Gehlot, Pilot and some of his loyalists, Kharge and Maken.

Late at night, ministers Shanti Dhariwal, Pratap Singh Khachariyawas and Mahesh Joshi, along with CM Gehlot's advisor Sanyam Lodha, were seen moving out of the Speaker's house -- possibly heading towards the CM's residence.

Before setting off for Joshi's home, some Gehlot loyalists said the next CM should be someone who was instrumental in saving the government during the 2020 crisis and not anyone involved in the bid to topple it, a veiled reference to Pilot.

"We are going to the Speaker's residence and will submit our resignation," state minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas told reporters. Another leader, Govind Ram Meghwal, said Gehlot can shoulder both roles, that of the chief minister as well as the party's national president.

He said if Gehlot does not remain CM, the party will face problems in winning the next Assembly elections.

"If a decision is not taken keeping the MLAs' sentiments in mind, the government will be in danger," independent legislator and advisor to the chief minister Sanyam Lodha said.

Gehlot and Pilot were at loggerheads for the chief minister's post soon after the Congress won the Assembly elections in December 2018. The high command then chose Gehlot as the chief minister for the third time while Pilot was made his deputy. In July 2020, Pilot along with 18 party MLAs rebelled against Gehlot's leadership.

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