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'With his innocent face he plotted to topple govt'

Gehlot lashes out at ‘young colleague’

The state government is sparing no effort to try and win the battle
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot addresses mediapersons outside a hotel in Jaipur on Monday where Congress leaders and MLAs are staying.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 21.07.20, 03:18 AM

The Sachin Pilot camp on Monday faced a two-pronged attack, political and legal, with Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot describing the young politician as a “conspirator with an innocent face” and lawyer Abhishek Singhvi questioning the validity of the rebels’ high court petition challenging their disqualification notice.

Singhvi argued that judicial review was absolutely barred in this case as the Assembly Speaker was within his constitutional rights to issue the notices.

He cited several high court and Supreme Court judgments to contend that the argument offered by the Pilot camp’s counsel, Harish Salve, had already been rejected.

Responding to the judges’ query whether the Speaker had applied his mind in sending the notices, Singhvi said: “The Speaker (my client) is not a robot or a post office. As long as the complaint is not outlandish, there is no need to accord reasons for issuing notices.”

He added: “The court is not empowered to intervene at this stage; it has no jurisdiction over the disqualification of any member. Let the Speaker act first. The petition is being used as a circumvention device; the Speaker’s power cannot be superseded or interfered with before he takes the decision. The Speaker can do right or do wrong. The Speaker is free to act under the anti-defection law.”

The court proceedings will continue on Tuesday and a judgment can be expected by afternoon.

The Pilot camp’s argument is based on the premise that the dissident MLAs had not engaged in any anti-party activities and that raising issues against the chief minister does not amount to a conspiracy to pull down the government.

Outside the court, Gehlot insinuated that Pilot had indeed been guilty of anti-party activities, accusing him of betraying the faith reposed in him by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

“(My) young colleague got so much in his twenties and thirties — (he was made) MP, central minister, PCC (state unit) chief and deputy chief minister. I knew he was incompetent and was doing nothing except instigating inter-personal squabbles but I never demanded his removal as PCC chief,” he said.

“No one believed me when I pointed to the conspiracy to destabilise the government. (With his) masoom chehra (innocent face) and command over Hindi and English, he succeeded in impressing the media. But he was plotting against the government in connivance with the BJP. When our MLAs said they wouldn’t join the BJP, the talk of a third front cropped up.”

A Congress MLA accused the Pilot faction of offering him Rs 35 crore to join the BJP.

Pilot, who has avoided locking horns with the Gehlot camp over these charges, finally issued a statement saying the “vexatious and concocted allegations” were aimed at maligning him and stifling the legitimate concerns he had raised.

Hinting that he might drag the MLA to court over the bribery allegation, Pilot said he was saddened rather than surprised by these attacks.

The Gehlot government is sparing no effort to try and win the battle. Its Anti-Corruption Bureau on Monday summoned rebel MLAs Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh for questioning in relation to the alleged efforts to buy lawmakers. The state home ministry too issued a notification saying the CBI could not take up any case without the state government’s permission and that the “general consent” granted to the Centre stood withdrawn.


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