Ashok Gehlot claimed a minor victory with his show of strength but bused 100-odd MLAs to a resort.
Jaipur/ New Delhi: Rebel Sachin Pilot has been invited by the Congress to attend a second meeting today of Rajasthan MLAs but the upset Deputy Chief Minister is unlikely to take the olive branch offered by his party, say sources, amid reports that he is "actively talking to" the BJP. Sachin Pilot's camp released a video last night showing at least 16 MLAs, hours after Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot flaunted MLAs at a meeting at his home in Jaipur. The Congress leadership waited for the Chief Minister's show of strength before trying to placate Sachin Pilot, but has so far drawn a blank.Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:
His deputy's revolt seems to have eroded Mr Gehlot's numbers. The Chief Minister had invited all 107 Congress MLAs and 15 others - independents and allies. Party leaders said 106 of these 122 MLAs attended. However, the Chief Minister's numbers may be barely one more than the half-way mark of 101 in the 200-member assembly.
In the 200-member assembly, the Congress had 107 MLAs and the support of 13 independents and five from smaller parties. That number has now come down to 90 Congress MLAs, seven independent members and five from smaller parties - 102.
A 10-second video shared last night on Sachin Pilot's official group showed 16 MLAs sitting together in a circle. Mr Pilot was not seen in the video tweeted by Rajasthan Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh with the caption "Family". Sources close to the rebel leader say at least 20 MLAs are with him - 17 Congress and three independent legislators. Two of the Congress MLAs backing him are Rajasthan ministers.
Mr Gehlot may know for sure in today's show of strength at a resort in Jaipur where he sent 100-odd MLAs in buses straight from his home yesterday, betraying his worry that the threat to his government from Mr Pilot may not be over.
One ally, Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), which has two MLAs in the Rajasthan assembly, withdrew support from the Congress and asked its members to stay neutral and not align either with Mr Gehlot or Mr Pilot. But there were indications that the MLAs were inclined towards supporting the Chief Minister, if it came to that.
The Congress said it hoped "both the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister" will attend the second meeting. "We request Sachin Pilot and all other MLAs to come... Doors are open for Sachin Pilot and other MLAs. They will be heard and solutions found. This is the discipline of the party," said Randeep Surjewala, who is in Jaipur, on deputation from Delhi to manage the crisis. Rajasthan Congress in-charge Avinash Pandey called it a "second chance to Sachin Pilot".
After Mr Pilot skipped the first meeting of legislators on Monday morning, a resolution by MLAs called for "strict disciplinary action" against anyone who did anything to weaken the government or the party.
Mr Pilot has denied that he is headed to the BJP though Congress sources assert he is in touch with the party. The Congress believes it is safe for now but that won't last if the BJP actively tries to pull down its government with help from the sulking Rajasthan Congress chief, following the Madhya Pradesh playbook. The BJP, which has 73 MLAs, needs the support of another 35 to take power in Rajasthan.
In March, Jyotiraditya Scindia, a close aide of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, stunned the party in Madhya Pradesh by defecting to the BJP along with 22 MLAs, ending its wafer-thin majority. With Mr Scindia's help, the BJP returned to power. It was around that time when Mr Pilot, who was forced to give up his claim to Chief Ministership of Rajasthan, was also believed to have opened talks with the BJP.
The feud between the Congress's top two in Rajasthan peaked when Mr Pilot was asked to answer questions in an investigation into an alleged attempt to destabilise the state government ahead of last month's Rajya Sabha elections. Chief Minister Gehlot said he too had received it, but Mr Pilot's aides pointed out that as state home minister in charge of the Special Operations Group, Mr Gehlot had practically given himself the summons.