3 demands that likely got Sachin Pilot axed from Rajasthan cabinet
From Rahul Gandhi’s office declaring on Monday that Sachin Pilot is “always in his heart”, to multiple requests by the party for him to come back and resolve issues, the 42-year-old leader was dropped as Rajasthan deputy chief minister from Ashok Gehlot cabinet on Tuesday. All within 24 hours.
Hindustan Times spoke to several key Congress leaders to piece together the events that led to Pilot’s exit also as the Rajasthan Congress unit president.
According to a senior leader privy to the decision making process, Pilot placed three conditions before the party leadership that they simply couldn’t fulfil.
The first being that Congress should declare a year before the next state polls, to be held in 2022, that Pilot would be the chief ministerial face.
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“He wanted a public commitment right away that in the last year, he would be declared the Congress face for the CM post. He wanted us to announce it to all,’’ said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
The second demand was that all those who had rebelled with Pilot, for instance tourism minister Vishwendra Singh and all other legislators would be accommodated. This didn’t mean that they would all be ministers, but “they should all be rewarded. For instance, made heads of corporations or any other bodies”.
The third and final demand put across to the Congress’s mediators was that Avinash Pande, general secretary and Rajasthan Congress in-charge, should also be removed from his post. Pilot believes that Pandey tilts towards chief minister Ashok Gehlot and so felt that the situation could only be normalised if another person was brought in his place.
“We really tried to bring him around but we couldn’t accept his conditions as this was blackmail. What if other states started using the same ruse?’’ said the senior leader.
While Pilot is yet to comment, a person part of his team told HT, “But the Congress is not in power in other states. So why do they have this fear?’’
Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s brief to the mediators was simple - try to keep him back in the party.
When asked about Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to reach out to Pilot, Gandhi’s office said: “He’s always in his heart. And they speak often and directly. They have great respect and affection for each other.”
“Even till this morning, right before the Congress legislature party meeting began, we kept talking to him. All of us spoke to him - his well wishers within and outside the party, but he wouldn’t listen,’’ said the leader.
Hindustan Times has confirmed that while Rahul Gandhi did not speak to him, Priyanka Gandhi did make a call to him. But according to the Pilot’s camp, this wasn’t on behalf of the Gandhis
When the last call was made at around 10:30 am and Pilot still wouldn’t budge, the party went ahead with its meeting and passed a resolution against him.
The senior leader said that Pilot had been promised outside BJP support in six months, if he was able to get 30 MLAs to leave the party with him. That’s when Randeep Surjewala announced, “We are sorry that Sachin Pilot and some of his ministers have gotten involved in a BJP conspiracy to bring down a democratically elected government.’’
“I have never said or done anything in my life against the Congress party,’’ Sachin Pilot’s aide quoted him as saying soon after the decision was made to drop him.
“All I wanted was that the public humiliation that Ashok Gehlot had put me through should also be publicly acknowledged and set right,’’ Pilot’s aide added.