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BJP puts off Jaipur meet

The BJP on Tuesday deferred a scheduled meeting of party MLAs in Jaipur to strategise for the Assembly session beginning on Friday and claimed it had no role in the political crisis in Rajasthan.

The development followed the return of 19 rebel Congress MLAs led by deposed deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot to the party fold a day earlier, dashing the hopes the BJP may have been harbouring of pulling down the Ashok Gehlot government.

“The meeting (of MLAs) has now been deferred to Thursday. We are reworking our strategy,” the leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, Gulab Chand Kataria of the BJP, told reporters in Jaipur.

Replying to queries on the Gehlot government’s crisis blowing over, Kataria denied any involvement of the BJP and slammed the Congress for the situation. “The BJP had no role to play. It was due to a clash between Gehlot and Sachin Pilot that the people of the state suffered,” he said.

The Assembly session, which the Gehlot camp got ratified from the governor after days of experiencing one stumbling block after another, was seen as primarily aimed at creating an opportunity for the Congress government to prove its majority amid the rebellion by Pilot. Despite Kataria’s claim, the general perception was that the BJP, particularly its central leadership, had been actively working behind the scenes to stoke rebellion and destabilize the Gehlot government.

The BJP’s efforts, according to insiders, failed because Pilot couldn’t get enough MLAs to reduce the Gehlot government to a minority. For the purported overthrow bid to succeed, at least 25 MLAs would have been required, while the Pilot camp could manage 19. Cracks were said to have appeared in the already numerically challenged Pilot camp.

Many believe that the plan failed also because Rajasthan’s most powerful BJP leader, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, refused to play ball with the central leadership.

Vasundhara, who enjoys a good rapport with MLAs cutting across party lines, kept herself aloof and maintained near-total silence as other st-ate leaders of the BJP claimed that the days of the Gehlot government were numbered.

A BJP ally, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MP Hanuman Beniwal, had gone to the extent of accusing Vasundhara of trying to save the Gehlot government by asking MLAs not to side with Pilot.

Internally, the reluctance of Vasundhara to play a role in jeopardising the Congress government has not gone down well with the top leadership but it is believed to be finding it hard to act, given her influence in the state. Some pointed out that the clouds over the Congress government lifted after Vasundhara travelled to Delhi to meet BJP chief J.P. Nadda on Friday.

BJP sources claimed that during her meeting with Nadda, Vasundhara discussed the political situation in Rajasthan and clearly said the party would burn its fingers if it tried to bring down the Gehlot government as Pilot did not have the required support.

Kataria on Tuesday said Vasundhara would participate in the meeting of BJP MLAs on Thursday, a day ahead of the Assembly session, appearing to suggest that she had not wavered from the party line.

The BJP had shifted some two-dozen of its MLAs to neighbouring Gujarat in a bid to keep its flock intact in preparation for the Assembly session. The BJP sources said Vasundhara was not happy with that decision as many of the lawmakers were her loyalists.

Despite the Congress appearing to have weathered the storm for now, many in the BJP insisted that the differences between Gehlot and Pilot would persist and fester for the government.