Jaipur: With just a few days left for the Rajasthan assembly session to begin, the political showdown between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress leader Sachin Pilot does not seem to be calming down.
On Friday, a list of phone calls made by MLAs and ministers in the Gehlot camp, currently staying in a Jaisalmer hotel, was leaked on social media by the Pilot camp, alleging that Gehlot is “unconstitutionally” recording the phone calls of his own MLAs.
The leaked list has details of incoming as well as outgoing calls of Gehlot’s cabinet minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal, independent MLA from Behror in Alwar Baljeet Yadav, Congress MLA from Rajakhera in Dholpur Rohit Bohra, Congress MLA from Kaman in Bharatpur Zahida Khan and Congress MLA from Dantaramgarh in Sikar Virendra Singh, between August 1 and August 4. Even the calls they made using the hotel’s intercom are listed.
It has been further alleged that MLAs who in the past had good relations with Pilot have been put on “red alert” and their movements are being monitored, including who they are talking to over the phone and meeting in the hotel.
Along with the list, a document was also released alleging that four jammers have been installed in the Jaislamer hotel by a company named as Ajaib electronics, to make sure that the MLAs are not able to use their mobile phones. It even said that there is just one place in the entire hotel from where calls can be made.
Earlier, it had been revealed that the Gehlot-supporting MLAs were not allowed to use their mobile phones. Last month, The Wire had also made a call to health minister Raghu Sharma to seek a comment on directions issued by the health department for COVID-19 testing, but his assistant said that Sharma is not using his mobile phone these days and there is no way to reach him.
The Pilot side also alleged that the state police is involved in tapping phones, along with two private agencies. However, the Rajasthan Police has denied the allegation, calling it “imaginary” and “false”. “No unit of the Rajasthan Police did phone tapping of any MLA or MP, neither in the past nor in present,” the state police said in a statement.
Earlier, the Gehlot side had leaked audio tapes of two Congress MLAs, Bhawar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh, and BJP Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, alleging their involvement in horse-trading to topple the Gehlot government. Three cases were registered against them on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy.
Following this, the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan police had sent a notice to Sachin Pilot, asking him to record his statement in connection with the matter. This was assumed to be the primary reason for his rebellion against the Gehlot government.
In the past few days, it appeared that both Gehlot and Pilot are willing to compromise. Gehlot spoke about “forgiving” the rebel Congress MLAs the “if high command forgives” them, while Pilot congratulated newly-appointed Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Govind Singh Dotasara who had replaced him.
The Gehlot government had even dropped the sedition charges from the cases filed against Sharma and Singh.
However, the recent development of the Pilot camp accusing Gehlot of tapping phones of his own loyalists, has set aside rumours of a possible reconciliation between the two ahead of the assembly session.
On July 30, following Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra’s nod to hold an assembly session from August 14, Gehlot had claimed that rates for horse trading have increased. He had also said that he is not aware if any of his MLAs has collected the first instalment.
Soon after making these statements, he shifted the MLAs of his camp, who were staying at Fairmont hotel on the Jaipur-Delhi highway since the political crisis began, to Jaisalmer on July 31.