JAIPUR: The induction of 6 BSP MLAs who joined the ruling Congress recently has helped CM Ashok Gehlot to remove Mayawati’s ‘Elephant’ from Rajasthan’s political landscape. With this magical trick, Gehlot has strengthened his position within the party and gained an upper-hand in his tussle with Sachin Pilot. Though Pilot had no role to play in this move, the deputy CM’s camp is far from happy that all credit for this political coup is going to Gehlot.
After the six BSP MLAs switched sides and joined the Congress on Monday, it is widely expected that Gehlot will reshuffle his ministry and accommodate some of the ex-BSP MLAs as ministers and others in boards and corporations in the state. Currently, the number of ministers in Rajasthan are 25 though under the rules, the number can be increased up to 30. Even if no minister is dropped, Gehlot can certainly ‘adjust’ five more leaders.
At a party meeting to begin preparations for the forthcoming local body elections, held in Jaipur on Thursday, some Pilot loyalists raised the issue that the ex-BSP MLAs who have come into the Congress should not be made ministers or given any plum posts. A Vice president of the state PCC, Laxman Singh Rawat said: “ If the former BSP MLAS are turned into ministers, it will send out a very negative signal. When the party High Command did not allow even first-time MLAs of the Congress to become ministers, if these BSP MLAs are given top posts, it will be a big disappointment for Congress MLAs, PCC office bearers and party workers in the state.”
Though Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot insists that the six BSP MLAs decided to join the Congress on their own, the merger this time is a virtual replay of what had happened in 2009. Even then six BSP MLAs had joined the Congress and half of them were made ministers while the others were given Parliamentary Secretary posts.
After this party meeting when state Incharge Avinash Pande was asked a question, Sachin Pilot himself took the mike and spoke about the newly imported MLAs : “The media is putting out new ideas daily about these ex-BSP MLAs being made into ministers. But as far as I know, these MLAs have moved away from BSP not for any posts nor have they joined the Congress out of any greed. Those Congress workers and leaders who worked hard in the last five years to ensure that the party returned to power in Rajasthan will get full respect both in the government and in our party.”
The merger has taken the Congress tally from 100 to 106 in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly and experts say given the stronger foundation for his party now, Gehlot may soon undertake the tricky task of a cabinet reshuffle and political appointments which has created serious worries in the Pilot camp. Pilot is said to be anxious that some of his supporters may be dropped from the Gehlot ministry to accommodate the ex-BSP MLAs who have so far not even bothered to meet up with the Dy CM.
While Pilot is said to be miffed by being ignored, he remarked: “ Please do not speculate about what is going on in my mind or in the mind of Avinash Pande. It is our responsibility to ensure that those leaders and workers who have worked with dedication in the past five years are not ignored and get their just rewards.”
In the Congress meeting, Pilot supporters even insisted that political appointments should not be delayed and to decide which party workers should be included, Block and District presidents of the state unit should be consulted.