BJP treads cautious, unleashes ‘3 musketeers’ to check out Pilot’s claim

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BY ANINDYA BANERJEE
New Delhi , July 13 (IANS)
As Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday flexed muscles during the Congress Legislature Party meeting, throwing the show open to media claiming around 100 MLAs still in his fold, sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed, they too took Sachin Pilot’s assertion of “more than 30 MLAs’ support” with a pinch of salt.
This is why no top BJP leaders met Pilot and instead deputed three BJP intermediaries to “keep a close watch” on the developments. Sources say, the three leaders are BJP General Secretary Bhupender Yadav, Pilots’s former colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia and BJP MP Om Mathur.
While BJP officially maintains that there has been no meeting between BJP leaders and Pilot and sources in BJP claim nor any have been scheduled, Yadav’s role is believed to keep BJP top brass “apprised” of the “developing situation”.
The choice of Yadav may surprise some, given he is incharge of Bihar and Gujarat. However, he hails from the desert state and knows the state’s politics very well.
The second choice was obvious — Jyotiraditya Scindia. While there has been no official confirmation of a meeting between him and Pilot, sources confirmed to IANS that the two had a detailed telephone conversation on Sunday, even as the sulking Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister remained “incommunicado” for the best part of the day to his party colleagues.
Sources who could not confirm what the two leaders — Pilot and Scindia — spoke about, added, “The two have worked together for years. But ever since Scindia joined the BJP along with his supporters, both Pilot and Scindia have been in regular telephonic contact.”
Late on Sunday, after they spoke over phone, Pilot asserted that he will skip Sunday morning’s legislature party meeting and openly announced that the Ashok Gehlot-led government in the state has been reduced to a minority government.
The third BJP leader who was entrusted with the job of “getting a sense” of things in the Gehlot-Pilot face-off, was BJP’s National Vice President and Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan — Om Mathur. Sources indicate that Pilot and Mathur met on Sunday. However, there has been no official confirmation of the same.
Mathur, who on Sunday attacked Congress leader Kapil Sibal saying it’s natural for anyone to look for greener pastures, without naming Pilot, tried to distance BJP from the Rajasthan political crisis on Monday morning. Mathur said: “It is unfair for the Congress party to blame its internal problems on the BJP. The Congress should rather keep its house in order.”
Senior BJP sources say, the party top brass were skeptical of the claim of more than 30 MLAs supporting Pilot. In fact, the job of the three BJP leaders was to get a sense of the authenticity of the claim. If BJP sources are to be believed, the party top brass decided against meeting Pilot unless convinced that he indeed has the numbers on his side.
With Gehlot releasing photos, flashing victory sign and his camp claiming there were 107 MLAs, BJP thinks its caution paid off.
With just 18 MLAs staying off the CLP meeting, Congress seems to have decided not to negotiate any further while BJP distanced itself from the political row. Reports of Priyanka Gandhi pitching in to find a middle path was also reported. With Pilot still dodging camera and microphones, the picture is yet to become clear.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at anindya.b@ians.in)

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