Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and a number of his MLAs have accused the BJP of conspiring to topple the government in the state, a charge denied by the opposition party which blamed "infighting" within the ruling Congress for the current situation.

The state police's special operations group (SOG) has issued notices to Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot to record their statement in connection with the alleged attempts to topple their government. Notice has also been sent Government Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi to record his statement.

The move came after the SOG on Friday registered an FIR against two people, who have been detained for their alleged involvement in horse-trading of Congress MLAs for toppling the Ashok Gehlot government.

"Notices have been issued to the chief minister, deputy chief minister and the government chief whip for recording their statement in connection with the matter," an official source told PTI on Saturday.

Sources said that nearly a dozen MLAs and others may also be issued notices soon.

Gehlot held a press conference on Saturday and alleged that amid the coronavirus pandemic, BJP leaders have "gone beyond humanity" and are engaged in toppling his government, but exuded confidence that the Congress dispensation will complete its five-year term.

"The government in Rajasthan is stable, will remain stable and will last five years," Gehlot said, and alleged that Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria, Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore and BJP state president Satish Poonia were executing the agenda of their party's central leadership.

"Amid the crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic, BJP leaders have gone beyond humanity and are engaged in toppling the government," the chief minister said.

The BJP has sabotaged governments in several states. It now wants to play the same game in Rajasthan, that it did in Madhya Pradesh. But they have been exposed and people will give the BJP a befitting reply at the right time, he said.

Amid this revived political drama, movement of Congress MLAs have started at the chief minister's residence. The legislators and party leaders would meet Gehlot on Saturday.

On Friday night, over 20 Congress MLAs issued a joint statement alleging that BJP was trying to topple the Congress government in the state by "luring" legislators.

They also alleged that the top leadership of the saffron party was involved in the "conspiracy", while insisting that no temptation can shake their integrity.

The BJP, however, has rejected the allegations saying whatever is going on with Congress is the result of infighting between the chief minister and his deputy.

The party's state president Satish Poonia said, "The BJP has nothing to do with all these allegations. During the Rajya Sabha elections also, they had levelled such allegations which are baseless."

"The Congress government has failed to deliver and could not manage the COVID-19 crisis properly. Which is why the state government is just trying to divert public attention."

Refuting the claim, Government Deputy Chief Whip Mahendra Chaudhary said there is no infighting in the Congress. "The BJP is behind the conspiracy of toppling the state government and they have been exposed," he said.

The Congress, which came to power in Rajasthan in December 2018, has 107 MLAs in the House of 200. It has the support of independent MLAs and legislators of other parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal, CPI(M) and Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP).

Soon after it had won the Assembly election, both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot were in the race for the chief minister's post. The party high command later named Gehlot as the CM and Pilot his deputy.

In the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections for two seats in the state last month, Gehlot and Mahesh Joshi had alleged that the BJP was trying to poach Congress and other MLAs to destabilise the government.

Joshi had also filed complaints with the SOG and the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) of the Rajasthan Police, demanding inquiry and actions in the attempts. Amid the allegations, the Congress and other MLAs were kept in resort till the June 19 Rajya Sabha polls to prevent any poaching attempt.

Two persons, one from Udaipur and the other from Ajmer districts, whose calls were intercepted by the SOG were detained last night. Their phone numbers were intercepted for checking on criminal activities like smuggling of illegal arms and mining explosives, an official said.

Their role in the matter and political affiliations, if any, are being probed, he said.

On the basis of the information that came up during the call interceptions, the SOG on Friday registered FIR under IPC sections 124-A (sedition) and 120-B (conspiracy).

The FIR mentions that two persons were allegedly talking about the rift between chief minister and deputy chief minister and toppling the Congress government by poaching MLAs. They also talked about the chances of earning Rs 1,000-2,000 crore by toppling the government, it stated.

The FIR mentions information received through sources about conspiracy of forming a new government and also refers to conversation of the two persons regarding the deputy chief minister.

 

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Southampton: Pakistan slumped to 126-5 before a third stoppage for rain led to an end to play on the first day of the second test against England at the Rose Bowl on Thursday.

Abid Ali struck 60 after being dropped twice early in his 111-ball innings and was comfortably Pakistan's top scorer on a tough day for the tourists in changing weather.

Jimmy Anderson was retained for the match, despite struggling in England's three-wicket win in the first test in Manchester last week, and the paceman repaid that faith by removing Shan Masood (1) in the third over and captain Azhar Ali (20) after lunch. It gave England's record wicket-taker figures of 2-35 and he is up to 592 in tests.

After the toss won by Pakistan was made under sunny skies, Pakistan began batting in overcast conditions and a shower brought up an early lunch. More rain came midway through the second session, which the tourists finished on 85-2.

And only about an hour was possible after tea, when Pakistan lost three wickets including Abid, who edged recalled seamer Sam Curran to Rory Burns at second slip.

Burns had been the second slip fielder to drop Abid before lunch, the right-handed opener having already been given a life on 0 by Dom Sibley's drop diving to his left at third slip.

As with Burns, Sibley made amends by taking a smart catch low down to remove Asad Shafiq (5) to give Stuart Broad his first wicket.

That brought Fawad Alam to the crease for his first test innings in 11 years after being recalled and it last four balls, when the left-hander was trapped lbw by Chris Woakes for a duck. A not-out decision was given but England reviewed and Hawk-Eye showed the ball was hitting the top of middle stump.

Babar Azam was 25 not out when bad light eventually led to stumps being called. Mohammad Rizwan was on 4.

Pakistan trails 1-0 in the three-match series. Another victory for England will clinch a first test series against Pakistan in 10 years, and a second series of this pandemic-affected summer having already beaten the West Indies.