How Ashok Gehlot retained support, made inroads into Sachin Pilot camp
A Rajasthan Congress functionary said on condition of anonymity that Gehlot was able to convince four Pilot loyalists that they would have no future with Pilot, who was then rumoured to be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Updated: Jul 15, 2020 07:33 IST
Pradyumn Singh, a former three-term legislator, an old-time associate of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot may have been the key in the latter’s success in wooing back four rebel Congress MLAs from the Sachin Pilot camp.
Singh’s son Rohit Bohra was one of them. He arrived in Delhi on Friday with three other Congress legislators Danish Abrar, Prashant Bairwa, and Chetan Dudi. All were considered Pilot loyalists.
On Saturday evening Gehlot managed to get through to Bohra on phone. And then, through Bohra, he was able to speak to the other three.
A Rajasthan Congress functionary said on condition of anonymity that Gehlot was able to convince the four that they would have no future with Pilot, who was then rumoured to be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Gehlot promised to address all their grievances and dangled the carrot of important responsibilities.
Soon after the call, the functionary said, the four left Delhi and reached Jaipur at 4 am on Sunday, where they had separate meetings with Gehlot. “One of the MLAs [members of legislative assembly] sought forgiveness,” said a second Congress functionary, who was present at Gehlot’s residence when the four returned.
“With their return, Gehlot was able to break Pilot’s camp and convince party leaders in Delhi that more rebel legislators would return to the fold,” the first functionary said.
The four held a press conference on Sunday and said they were with Gehlot. “We are Congress soldiers for generations and are with the party,” said Abrar. The others echoed the sentiment.
Their return also seemed to enthuse others in the Gehlot camp.
According to the first functionary, Gehlot called almost all the legislators himself and assured them that he would take care of them.
Once he was convinced he had the numbers, he called a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) on Monday. Legislators belonging to the Congress’ allies in the state were also invited to the meeting.
“The CLP is a forum where party MLAs can raise their issues in front of Central observers, who then submit a report to the party high command,” said a third party functionary who asked not to be named.
“The central observers have given specific instances of how Pilot and his supporters were trying to undermine the chief minister’s authority and were hobnobbing with the opposition,” a fourth functionary said on condition of anonymity.
The CLP passed a resolution on Monday, seeking “strict action” against any member of the legislative party indulging in anti-party activities even as central leaders appealed to Pilot and rebel legislators to return.
Hours before the CLP met again on Tuesday morning, party leaders again reached out to Pilot to resolve the crisis. According to a fifth Congress functionary who did not wish to be identified, Pilot was told that if he does not want to attend the CLP meeting, he should address the media in Delhi and clarify that he is a “loyal soldier” of the party.
“But Pilot turned this offer as well and insisted on his demand for immediate removal of Gehlot as the chief minister,” this person added.
HT learns that Jitin Prasada and Dinesh Gundu Rao, Pilot’s friends, were asked to contact him. But they, too, failed to persuade him, said another leader involved in the crisis management.
“His refusal was like the final nail in the coffin. It was finally decided to remove him as the deputy chief minister and the state Congress president,” this person added on condition of anonymity.