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Sacked as Dy CM, Cong's Raj unit chief

New Delhi: As the drama intensified in Rajasthan, the Congress on Tuesday cracked the whip on dissident leader Sachin Pilot, stripping him of the posts of Rajasthan's Deputy Chief Minister and the party's state unit president for rebelling against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

It did just what was required — to send a strong message among its cadres, including high-profile leaders, that party is always first ahead of anybody's personal interests; and sacked Sachin Pilot from the post of Deputy Chief Minister and as the state party chief after there were consistent efforts from the top Congress leadership to persuade him to let bygones be bygones and urging him to attend the second meeting of MLAs that was held on Tuesday.

With this move, the fate of Congress government in Rajasthan hangs in balance till the incumbent Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot doesn't prove his majority on the floor of the House.

Even though the Gehlot camp is confident of winning the floor test after submitting a letter of support of 104 MLAs to Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra, the suspense over its survival continues as the rebel Pilot camp has affirmed that they have enough MLAs to their side to dethrone the ruling government.

In contrast to claims of Gehlot camp, the Congress has now 100 MLAs, the half-way mark in the 200-member Assembly, after three MLAs left his camp on Tuesday morning. Notably, prior to Pilot's open revolt, the party had 107 MLAs and the support of 13 Independents and five from smaller parties but now the number has come down to 90 Congress MLAs, seven Independent members and three from smaller parties.

In his first statement after Pilot's sacking, Gehlot on Tuesday alleged that the entire Pilot camp is playing into BJP's hand. "There is nothing in Pilot's hands, it is the BJP which is running the show. BJP has arranged that resort and they are managing everything," Gehlot said, adding that the party was forced to take a decision against Pilot.

He further said: "The attitude was similar to the saying 'aa bail mujhe maar' given the tweets and statements of the last few months. I've been impartial to all MLAs. No one is happy about the decisions. We tried to reach out but hobnobbing with BJP has taken place."

Gehlot also held a Cabinet meeting and after that, a meeting of the council of ministers also took place at his official residence on Tuesday night.

Pilot has been replaced by state Education minister Govind Singh Dotasara as new Rajasthan Congress chief.

In his first statement after being sacked, Pilot said: "Truth can be troubled, cannot be defeated." Pilot would announce his further plans at a press conference called on Wednesday at 10 am.

According to sources, top Congress leaders have spoken to Pilot and have asked him not to rebel against the Chief Minister. They also assured him that his grievances would be redressed at the party level. Besides Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka, other Congress leaders who also spoke to Pilot include Ahmed Patel, former Union Finance minister P Chidambaram and AICC general secretary KC Venugopal.

According to party insiders, the top leadership was forced to take a tough decision as Pilot had demanded declaration of his name for the Chief Ministerial post for 2022 Assembly polls, accommodation of all his loyalists and removal of party's state in-charge Avinash Pandey.

On the development, Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Poonia said: "People are angry and disappointed with this government and no power in the world can save it. We are vigilant, monitoring the situation and will decide our strategy as the situation unfolds."

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