Prove horse-trading charge or quit politics, BJP tells Gehlot
Jaipur, July 11: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday accused the BJP of conspiring to topple his government by indulging in horse-trading, a charge denied by the opposition party which claimed it was the Congress'' "infighting" at play.
Gehlot''s frontal attack came as the state police''s special operations group (SOG) arrested two persons and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed a preliminary enquiry against three Independent MLAs for alleged attempts to bribe Congress MLAs ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls last month and destabilise the state government.
Both SOG and ACB are part of the Rajasthan police.
"BJP leaders are playing the game at the behest of central leaders. MLAs were offered money... Rs 10 crore in advance and Rs 15 crore after the government is toppled," the chief minister alleged and added that the BJP wants to convert the state''s politics into a goat market, "bakra mandi".
The BJP hit back at Gehlot saying he should utilise agencies like SOG and ACB for crime control "instead of threatening" MLAs and political parties.
Official sources said the SOG is all set to record the statements of Gehlot, Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and the government's chief whip Mahesh Joshi in the matter.
They said that nearly a dozen MLAs and others may also be issued notices soon.
The SOG of Rajasthan police registered the case on Friday under IPC sections 124-A (sedition) and 120-B (conspiracy) on the basis of "facts" which came up during interception of two mobile numbers, sources said.
The mobile numbers of two persons, who were arrested on Saturday, were taken on surveillance on June 13 in connection with illegal smuggling of arms and (mining) explosive and it was revealed that attempts were being made to bribe MLA during Rajya Sabha polls and topple the state government, the sources claimed.
The PE was registered on Saturday by ACB against MLAs Omprakash Hudla, Suresh Tak and Khushveer Singh. It is alleged that the legislators were involved in offering money to some other MLAs on behalf of BJP for toppling the government, ACB sources claimed.
Reacting to the development, Hudla said he was not involved in any such activity.
"No one, be it a chief minister or the prime minister, is above the law. I have received the notice of SOG. The investigating agency will do its job and we will cooperate in it," Gehlot said.
The chief minister said the investigation will reveal everything and truth will prevail. "There is no alternative to the truth," he said, adding while his government is fighting to protect the lives and livelihood of people during the coronavirus pandemic, the BJP was trying to destabilise the government.
He expressed confidence that his government will last its full tenure.
Gehlot alleged that Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria, Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore and BJP state president Satish Poonia were executing the agenda of their party''s central leadership.
On Friday night, over 20 Congress MLAs had also issued a joint statement alleging that BJP was trying to topple the Congress government in the state by "luring" legislators.
The BJP, however, rejected the allegations saying whatever is going in the Congress is the result of infighting between the chief minister and his deputy.
The party''s state president Satish Poonia said, "The BJP has nothing to do with all these allegations. During the Rajya Sabha elections also, they had levelled such allegations which are baseless."
The Congress, which came to power in Rajasthan in December 2018, has 107 MLAs in the House of 200. It has the support of 13 independent MLAs and legislators of other parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (1 MLA), CPM (2 MLAs) and Bhartiya Tribal Party (2 MLAs).
Amid the allegations of horse trading, the Congress and other MLAs were kept in resort till the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls to prevent any poaching attempt. Two Congress candidates had won in the polls after securing votes as per the party''s strength.
Kataria, who is in Udaipur, challenged the chief minister to prove the allegations.
"The chief minister appeared disappointed in the press conference today and the people of the entire state saw that he has touched a low. The chief minister is not able to handle the infighting going on in the Congress and they are falsely accusing the BJP," Kataria told reporters at a video conference.
"I challenge the chief minister to prove his allegations against the BJP. If the allegations are proved then I will quit politics and if the charges are not proved then Chief Minister Gehlot should quit politics," he said.
Poonia alleged the state government has failed to deliver and could not manage the COVID-19 crisis properly which is why it was trying to divert public attention.
Refuting the claim, Government Deputy Chief Whip Mahendra Chaudhary said there is no infighting in the Congress. "The BJP is behind the conspiracy of toppling the state government and they have been exposed," he said.
Responding to queries on the party''s rivals trying to take advantage of the fighting between his faction and the one led by Pilot, Gehlot said there was peace in the party.
"There may be five-seven leaders here who could be the claimant for chief minister''s post. They may also have capabilities but when a chief minister is appointed, such talks get over and peace prevails," he said in response.
According to the chief minister, attempts were made to poach MLAs ahead of last month''s Rajya Sabha elections as well but this time the effort seemed to be bigger and more organised.
Soon after it had won the Assembly election, both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot were in the race for the chief minister''s post. The party high command later named Gehlot as the CM and Pilot his deputy.
The SOG had on Friday detained Ashok Chauhan from Udaipur and Bharat Bhai was picked from Beawar town of Ajmer after their phones had been intercepted. They were placed under arrest on Saturday at Jaipur and were being interrogated.
The official said that a complaint filed by government chief whip Mahesh Joshi on alleged horse trading in Rajya Sabha polls was also being probed but no FIR in that was registered so far.
The SOG FIR mentions that two persons were allegedly talking about the rift between chief minister and deputy chief minister and toppling the Congress government by poaching MLAs. They also talked about the chances of earning Rs 1,000-2,000 crore by toppling the government, it stated.
The FIR mentions information received through sources about conspiracy of forming a new government and also refers to conversation of the two persons regarding the deputy chief minister.
Citing the examples of Goa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, the chief minister alleged the BJP is trying to play similar games in Rajasthan too.
"Our focus should have been completely on combating the corona crisis which we have been doing but now we have to struggle to save the government," he said.
He said it was unfortunate that horse trading is done in Gujarat, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, and claimed that Rajasthan has no such history.
Congress leaders have "integrity", he asserted.
"If any of our MLAs, who won elections on Congress ticket and were given various posts including ministerial portfolios by the party, turns out to be a traitor, the public will not forgive him," he said.