A recent political crisis in the Indian state of Rajasthan has brought with it a storm of internal instability. Perhaps the biggest question on the mind of most political analysts and politicians, amidst this, is the anticipation—or hope— that Sachin Pilot, ex-Deputy Chief Minister of Chief Minister in Rajasthan, will announce his departure from the Indian National Congress (INC) and join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The central BJP government has garnered quite a reputation for toppling state governments in regions where the oppositional party Congress forms the majority.
But focusing on the BJP might be taking everyone’s eyes away from the big picture: a story that is, for now, about more than possible BJP interference. Consider what the crisis tells the citizens of India about Congress’ national and state level handling of ‘political drama,’ as the series of events continue to unfold.
July 10, 2020: Pilot is summoned by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan Police in regards to an FIR registered against him on an alleged attempt to dislodge the Gehlot government in recent Rajya Sabha polls through horse-trading; however, the root of discord may have been sown long before that.
July 11, 2020: The Chief Minister (CM), Ashok Gehlot claims the BJP is trying to overturn his government by bribing MLAs.
July 12, 2020: The Dy Chief Minister, Sachin Pilot claims 30 MLAs have ‘pledged support’ to him, making the present government a minority. Ashok Gehlot responds by claiming it has 109 MLAs; Pilot seen with BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia in Delhi as he and his supporters move in and around Delhi and Gurgaon.
July 13, 2020: INC issues whip for Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting at CM’s residence where it passes a resolution to support Gehlot and take disciplinary action against MLAs and office-bearers who ‘weakens party’; Congress also says that ‘doors will remain open’ for Pilot and his aides; Pilot does not attend the meeting, and those who do are transported to Fairmont Hotel in Jaipur to avoid any ‘potential crossover.’
July 14, 2020: INC calls for a second CLP meet, which is once again not attended by Pilot; Pilot is removed from his positions as the Deputy Chief Minister and President of State Congress Committee of Rajasthan, along with 18 other MLAs who supported him; a plea is filed in Rajasthan High Court against the disqualification notices; 2 MLAs from Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) withdraw support from Congress, but hand over letters of support to Ghelot four days later on July 18; the BJP demands a floor test, but later denies this claim.
July 17, 2020: Harish Salve, representative of ‘Pilot camp’ in Rajasthan HC, argues that the rebel MLAs have not resigned, yet they were issued disqualification notices under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule, which is only applicable in case of resignation; 2 rebel MLAs are suspended by Congress over their alleged involvement in leaked audio tapes; an arrest is made by SOG in regards to horse-trading probe and leaked audio tapes.
July 18, 2020: BJP levels allegations of phone tapping and demands Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in relation to leaked audio tapes; two days later the Rajasthan Government notifies via circular that it has revoked general consent to CBI that is needed for investigations, and consent will now be sought on a case by case basis.
July 20, 2020: Giriraj Singh Malinga, a Rajasthan MLA from INC, claims that he was offered Rs. 35 crore by Pilot to join the BJP, Pilot responds by saying he is ‘sad but not surprised’ at what he considers to be fabrications intended to damage his reputation; Ghelot remains convinced that Pilot is ‘hand in glove’ with the BJP; meanwhile in Rajasthan High Court, the judges observe that a whip cannot be issued with respect to a party meeting, but only for an Assembly session.
July 21, 2020: Hearing of petition ends, Rajasthan High Court says it will announce the verdict on July 24 and the Speaker cannot act on the disqualification notices until then; Third Congress Legislature Party begins at Fairmont Hotel.
July 22, 2020: Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi moves Supreme Court in order to challenge the stay order of the High Court.
July 23, 2020: SC allows Rajasthan HC to continue passing orders as scheduled; says it will begin hearing the Speaker’s plea from July 27.
July 24, 2020: Rajasthan HC orders that a “status quo” be maintained and defers its judgement until SC makes a decision; Speaker will not be allowed to act on disqualification notice until both courts pronounce their verdicts; Rajasthan HC allows the Union of India to be made a party in the case; ‘Gehlot’s camp’ organise a dharna at Raj Bhawan demanding an Assembly session, and Gehlot meets Governor Kalraj Mishra regarding the same.
As the situation gets more complex and drawn-out, the question of the BJP government’s involvement is still up in the air. The crisis currently presents itself as a mishandling on Congress' part at the state and national level, perhaps stemming from younger leaders not seeing eye-to-eye with the veterans.
The insatiable hunger for power by any means displayed by the BJP- despite its claims of non-involvement- in seeing the current government toppled cannot and should not be overlooked. Speculations run abound, and at the end of the day it might just be up to the citizens to peer through the fog and infer for themselves the roles and intentions of the embroiled parties.