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Home / India News / 24 hours of twists and turns in Rajasthan political drama

24 hours of twists and turns in Rajasthan political drama

Political experts said the Congress was still keen on retaining a senior leader like Sachin Pilot in its fold despite what Ashok Gehlot said.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2020 05:01 IST
Rakesh Goswami
Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Congress leaders said that it was highly unlikely that the party high command will accept Sachin Pilot’s demand for his return to Rajasthan politics.
Congress leaders said that it was highly unlikely that the party high command will accept Sachin Pilot’s demand for his return to Rajasthan politics. (Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo )

Close to 8pm on Tuesday, two sacked Rajasthan ministers, Ramesh Meena and Vishvendra Singh, denied having engaged in anti-party activities and claimed they only raised issues of concern to the people, the first indication of a softening of their stand by Congress rebels led by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.

“We never went against the party. We had some issues, which we raised at the party forum, but they were not addressed,” Meena, who was food and civil supplies minister in the Ashok Gehlot government, said in the video posted on the microblogging site Twitter.

Almost at the same time, Singh, who held the tourism portfolio, released a video in which he wondered why the Congress leadership had taken such a harsh decision. “I just drew the attention of the party towards failure to implement promises made in the manifesto…We never indulged in any anti-party activity or made any statement against the party,” he said.

The conciliatory mood was reconfirmed by Pilot, who on Wednesday morning, in separate interviews, said he was not joining the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was still with the Congress. His statement was seen by experts as an attempt to return back to the party-fold considering that the number of MLAs joining the Pilot camp remained unchanged at 22 even three days after the crisis started.

Soon after Pilot’s interviews, Congress general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pande, wrote on Twitter: “Party’s doors aren’t closed on Pilot. May God give him good sense and he realizes his mistake. I pray that he gets out of that BJP’s trap,” he wrote.

These conciliatory words were, however, short-lived as Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot lashed out at Pilot on Wednesday in the first direct attack on his former deputy.

“You are the deputy CM and PCC {Pradesh Congress Committee chief} and you make deals with (BJP) people. You ask for mobile number and names and are involved in a conspiracy and then they give clarification that there was no horse trading. You were part of the conspiracy and what are you clarifying now,” Gehlot said to reporters outside Hotel Fairmont in Jaipur.

Also read: Baseless, says Congress on reports of Rahul Gandhi’s purported comment on Sachin Pilot

The CM had until Wednesday accused the BJP of trying to destabilise his government by offering up to Rs 20 crore each to Congress legislators. He also said that there was no reason to get upset with the Rajasthan police notice to record a statementby Pilot as it was part of the investigation process. “I have also got the notice,” Gehlot said.

Within an hour of Gehlot’s interaction with reporters, where close to 100 legislators supporting the Congress government have been staying, Congress’s national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala addressed the media and asked Pilot and other MLAs to return to the party fold after admitting their “mistake”.

“Sachin Pilot ji and other MLAs have to first come out of Manohar Lal Khattar’s (Haryana chief minister’s) protection and return to their home in Jaipur. Then only their concerns can be addressed,” Surjewala said in a reference to the rebels camping in a hotel in Gurugram .

Also read: Congress gives Sachin Pilot a to-do list, asks him to prove his intentions

Political experts said the Congress was still keen on retaining a senior leader like Pilot in its fold despite what Gehlot said.

“But these (statements) showed that they were willing to return home. The party’s statement on Wednesday morning and in Surjewala’s press conference also indicated that Congress was still trying to get them back to its fold,” said Avadhesh Akodia, a Jaipur-based political commentator.

Prakash Bhandari, another Jaipur-based political analyst, said Wednesday’s remarks by Gehlot were the harshest he had made against Pilot. “Gehlot doesn’t have the reputation of talking through his hat. If he is saying he has evidence, he sure must be having evidence,” he said.

Congress leaders said that it was highly unlikely that the party high command will accept Pilot’s demand for his return to Rajasthan politics. “There is a possibility that he may get a position in the central Congress team after some time. But his role now in Rajasthan politics would be very less,” a party leader said on condition of anonymity.

There has been buzz that at least two Independent MLAs may return to Jaipur and join the Gehlot camp. This had not happened until Wednesday. A minister in the Gehlot cabinet told HT on condition of anonymity that at least six MLAs from the Pilot camp were in touch with the CM and may return soon.

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