Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot will soon host a dinner for senior Congress leaders, including state Congress president Sachin Pilot, to iron out differences in the top brass ahead of the 2018 assembly election.
Floated by Congress vice-president and state in-charge Gurudas Kamat in the last party executive meeting last month, the ‘dinner diplomacy’ aims to allow leaders talk in an informal atmosphere, unlike formal party meetings, so that differences within the state unit can be thrashed out.
The AICC has written to all state units to arrange such dinners and the first dinner was hosted by Gujarat leaders last month.
Leaders in Rajasthan have welcomed the proposition, albeit with caution. A Congress leader, without wishing to be named said: “The top leaders keep meeting on and off…If the leaders are unable to resolve issues bogging the party, then it won’t help.”
However, Congress MLA Vishvendra Singh was in no mood to mince words. In a veiled reference to the ongoing tussle between Gehlot and Pilot, he said: “If the dinner diplomacy works and benefits the party it is good, else it’s a sham. The reality is, there is one chair (for CM) and many contenders.”
The uneasy relationship between Gehlot and Pilot, since the latter took over as state party president in February 2014, has been gnawing the party thread.
Pilot was sent by the party high command to head the Rajasthan unit in 2014 after the debacle in the last assembly election when the Congress had managed to bag just 24 seats out of 200.
The ongoing tussle for power, with either of the leaders trying to establish their supremacy in the party, did not bode well for the party. While one faction feels that the Congress should go to the polls with a younger face, many have backed Gehlot for his grasp over Rajasthan’s realpolitik and deep understanding of social fabric.
Meanwhile, Gehlot has welcomed the initiative. “The date and list of invitees will be decided by Kamat. He will talk to all the leaders and decide a date and tell me.” Besides Pilot, CP Joshi and Rameshwar Dudi are likely to attend the first dinner.