Pilot offered me crores to join BJP: Gehlot loyalist

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PTI

Jaipur/New Delhi

The Ashok Gehlot camp on Monday sharpened its attack on Sachin Pilot, with the Rajasthan Chief Minister calling him “useless” and another loyalist alleging that the dissident Congress leader himself offered him crores to switch sides.

Pilot reacted sharply, saying he will take the MLA to court.

Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat confirmed he has received a notice from Rajasthan police, after the Congress claimed he figures in audio clips suggesting a “conspiracy” to topple the Congress government in Rajasthan.

The BJP had earlier demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry

into “illegal” phone-tapping by the state government. But, in what could be a move to preempt it, the state government has withdrawn its “general consent” to the agency to investigate criminal cases. The central agency will now have to seek prior consent on a case-by-case basis.

Notices also went out to dissident Congress MLAs Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh from the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau over the audio clips. The ACB asked the two MLAs, who have not been seen in public since the crisis began, to appear before it in three days.

As the infighting in the Congress intensified, a court battle continued through the day. The Rajasthan High Court will on Tuesday morning resume hearing the petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebels, challenging the disqualification notices sent to them by the assembly Speaker.

The harshest words spoken during the day came from Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who used the derogatory term “nikkama” in Hindi for “useless” or “incompetent”, for the sacked deputy chief minister, with whom he is now locked in a tussle for power.

Referring to Pilot’s performance as the state Congress chief, Gehlot said, “We knew he is ‘nikamma’ (useless), he is ‘nakara’ (idle) and not doing any work.” Gehlot did not mention Pilot by name, referring once to him as his “young colleague” and recalling that the he had been given important posts by the party at an early age.

Pilot ignored these remarks but reacted strongly to allegations made by Congress MLA Giriraj Singh Malinga, who claimed that he was offered money by Pilot to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. He said talks were held at Pilot’s residence and he later told Gehlot about the “conspiracy”. He did not disclose the amount that was discussed, but when reporters asked if it was Rs 30-35 crore, Malinga said he was offered the “going rate”.