The party also cracked the whip on Pilot’s loyalists: Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena were removed from the state cabinet, and the state presidents of the Youth Congress and Seva Dal were replaced.
A day after it attempted a balancing act, the Congress moved swiftly on Tuesday, removing Sachin Pilot from both his posts — as Rajasthan’s deputy chief minister and the party’s state unit chief. The party also cracked the whip on Pilot’s loyalists: Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena were removed from the state cabinet, and the state presidents of the Youth Congress and Seva Dal were replaced.
The decision was announced after a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meet in the morning — the second in two days — at a hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur, where the Ashok Gehlot camp is keeping Congress and other supporting MLAs. Soon after he was sacked, Pilot tweeted: “Satya ko pareshan kiya ja sakta hai, parajit nahi (Truth can be rattled, not defeated).”
His next move is not immediately clear. During the run-up to Tuesday’s CLP meeting, his supporters insisted that he had no plans to join the BJP. Announcing the decision after the CLP meeting, AICC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “All of us have a regret: that Rajasthan’s deputy CM, our young colleague Sachin Pilot and some Congress MLAs and ministers were caught in the web of a conspiracy weaved by the BJP to topple the Congress government”.
He said he was making the announcement “with a heavy heart and regret”. Surjewala said the party high command spoke to Pilot half-a-dozen times and emphasised that differences should be resolved within the family.“The 8 crore people of Rajasthan and the entire nation are aware of the political developments in Rajasthan over the last 72 hours.
The BJP challenged the honour of 8 crore citizens. The BJP has conspired to topple the democratically elected majority government of Rajasthan. By misusing money power and muscle power, by misusing the ED and IT, the BJP has committed the unpardonable crime of buying the loyalties of Congress and independent MLAs,” he said.
Education minister and OBC leader Govind Singh Dotasra has been made the new PCC chief; Ganesh Ghogra has replaced Ladnun MLA Mukesh Bhakar as the state IYC chief; Hem Singh Shekhawat has replaced MLA Rakesh Pareek as the state president of the Congress Seva Dal.
Gehlot, who met Governor Kalraj Mishra immediately after the CLP meeting, said: “The party high command was compelled to take a decision. We gave them full opportunity. We kept a CLP meeting yesterday, but they didn’t come. Today’s meeting was also kept for them, to give them another chance… but even then they didn’t come.”
He said the Congress was forced to take the decision when it “saw that they have struck a deal with BJP and decided to form a new party”.Gehlot claimed the support of 107 MLAs in the 200-member Assembly. “You can break off from a party when you have a two-thirds majority… Twenty people don’t break a party…Why did they play this game? And then you are blackmailing,” he said.
“I’m sad that for the first time after independence, there is a government which is breaking governments through money power… I can’t believe that crores of rupees are being traded,” he said.He claimed that 8-10 people from the Pilot camp wanted to return, but were being guarded at a resort managed by BJP.
In a statement, Pilot loyalists Vishvendra Singh, Ramesh Meena and Deependra Singh said: “We are taking a stand to protect our dignity and self respect at a time when our leader is threatened with notices from the SOG under the charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. This is unprecedented in Indian democracy…”
“When did we make anti-party statements. We only wanted to draw the attention of the high command, that we are not able to deliver the things listed in our manifesto,” said Singh.
Meena said the work done by his Food and Civil Supplies department was praised by many, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “And this is what I get. When did we go against the party or indulge in irregularities? We were dissatisfied and brought this before the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Abhimanyu Poonia, president of the state NSUI unit, resigned. “We cannot work with a chief minister who has worked to send the heads of Jat and Bishnoi families to jail. Our honesty and conscience is still alive,” he tweeted.
Poonia said 400-500 post-holding members of the Youth Congress, NSUI and Seva Dal have resigned in protest. Pilot loyalists have also resigned en masse in Ajmer division and other parts of the state. At least 59 office-bearers have submitted their resignations in Tonk, which is Pilot’s assembly constituency.