Sachin Pilot flagged differences in meet with Ahmed Patel about a fortnight ago
Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot tried to warn the Congress leadership about the trouble brewing in the state government about two weeks ago, according to party insiders aware of the developments.
Pilot, who is also the state Congress president, held a one-on-one meeting with senior leader Ahmed Patel in the national capital in June end to discuss his differences with chief minister Ashok Gehlot, leaders from both camps confirmed on condition of anonymity.
In the meeting, Pilot told Patel, considered a close aide of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, that his differences with Gehlot had gone too far, according to one of the leaders cited above. “There was a long list of grievances that he spoke about.”
It is not clear what emerged at the meeting as both Patel and Pilot were unavailable for comment. It is also unclear if there was any follow-up action by the Congress.
Pilot also met other senior leaders such as KC Venugopal, general secretary in charge of organisation.
That Pilot and Gehlot had differences was not unknown in the party circles. When the Congress won the 2018 elections, bagging 107 seats in the 200-member assembly, Pilot’s supporters credited him for the victory. But Gehlot dug in his heels. Rahul Gandhi, the then Congress president, made Gehlot the CM and Pilot his deputy.
However, as a second leader pointed out, this arrangement was more on paper than in reality. “The deputy chief minister had limited powers and wouldn’t be consulted on any decisions in the state. Most of the times he found out about cabinet decisions from media reports,” this person added, asking not to be named.
And while Pilot was the party chief in the state, efforts were on to have him replaced.
On Sunday, as the Congress stared at crisis, party MP and former minister Kapil Sibal tweeted: “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?”
Congress leaders say there may be a maximum of 19 legislators, perhaps fewer, supporting Pilot, who visited Delhi over the weekend. His supporters are believed to be in a hotel in Gurugram. According to one of the leaders backing Pilot, the number of legislators supporting him could increase. News agency PTI reported that Pilot claims there are 30 MLAs backing him and that the Gehlot government is already a minority one.
The crisis in Rajasthan surfaced when the state police issued notices to Gehlot, who is also the home minister, and Pilot over an alleged bid to destabilise the government.
While the Rajasthan government said notice was also sent to the chief minister, the leader close to Pilot called that a “joke”.
“This was taking humiliation to a different level...Is this how a deputy chief minister is treated?” the leader asked. “The chief minister also holds the home portfolio. So how can they question him?”