Ashok Gehlot

The BJP’s attempt to corner the Ashok Gehlot government over the phone-tapping scandal may boomerang on it. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has made it clear that he stands by what he said in the Assembly and before the media last year. He said that the BJP is unnecessarily blowing it out of proportion.

Informed sources said Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat might be in trouble if the phone-tapping scandal assumes a big proportion. From Day 1, Congress has been demanding the test of voice of Shekhawat so as to match it with what is on the tapes.

However, Shekhawat himself made it a big issue in the Assembly following which the state BJP got active. In fact, replying to a question from BJP in the Rajasthan Assembly, the Gehlot government replied that it taps phones in the interest of public safety and order. It was a technical answer that any government would have given to such a question. The government did not say that it got the phone of any people’s representative tapped. As per the Constitution, the police have the authority to tap phones if required. It was nowhere mentioned in the reply that phones were tapped during the political crisis last year. But the BJP linked it to the phone tapping scandal of last year when the Gehlot government was facing a crisis of survival. Over a dozen MLAs of the Congress led by Sachin Pilot had turned rebels and started targeting the Gehlot government last year in what was seen as an attempt of adversaries of CM to topple the government.

Congress had directly accused the BJP of conspiring to dislodge the state government. Some audio tapes were viral in social media at that time, allegedly containing the voice of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma. Congress had sought a probe into the tapes. But no investigation took place. Gehlot succeeded in saving his government. The rebel MLAs under the leadership of Sachin Pilot finally returned to the party.

But this development led to the BJP getting divided into two groups. One faction was of former CM Vasundhara Raje, which was never in favour of toppling the government. The second group was led by the present leadership of the BJP. Shekhawat is in the second group.

After the Gehlot government sailed through the crisis, the internal fight of the BJP intensified. The BJP high command is trying to put in place a new state leadership. Shekhawat is said to be close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He is understood to be quite active in state politics because of the backing of Shah. This is the reason why immediately after the state government’s reply on phone tapping, Shekhawat tweeted his comments linking the scandal to what happened last year. He accused the state government of getting the phones tapped. Congress also did not waste a minute and raised the demand for a probe into the tapes. The state government may come out with a reply on the issue raised by BJP.