Pilot takes on CM Gehlot again, will fast over graft

By, Jaipur
Apr 10, 2023 12:05 AM IST

The announcement represents yet another flare-up between Pilot and Gehlot, who have had several public spats over the last three years in a simmering rift that threatens to split the Congress open in Rajasthan

Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Sunday announced he will hold a day-long agitation on April 11 against what he said was inaction by the state government, headed by his party colleague Ashok Gehlot, in prosecuting corruption cases involving the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Vasundhara Raje.

Congress leader Sachin Pilot in Jaipur on Sunday. (PTI)
Congress leader Sachin Pilot in Jaipur on Sunday. (PTI)

The announcement represents yet another flare-up between Pilot and Gehlot, who have had several public spats over the last three years in a simmering rift that threatens to split the Congress open in Rajasthan.

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In a press conference on Sunday, Pilot said he will sit on one-day “anshan (hunger strike)” at Shaheed Smarak on Mahatama Jyotiba Phule Jayanti on April 11 and attacked the Gehlot administration for not taking “any action against then chief minister Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government over corruption cases as promised”.

Addressing media persons on Sunday, he said he had “apprised the district administration about this”.

Pilot said he and other Congress leaders raised the issue when Congress was in the opposition and promised to take action when the party came to power. That his target was Gehlot was clear as he played videos of statements by the current CM in the assembly and outside, where the latter levelled corruption allegations against the Raje government, and cited letters that he had written to the CM.

“No action has been taken on the corruption in the Vasundhara Raje government, where we being in the opposition had promised that an inquiry would be conducted. Now 6-7 months are left for the election, and we should take action before that,” he said.

Pilot said that while in opposition, Congress raised voices about scams worth 45,000 crore and promised to investigate them and punish the guilty. He said the Congress government had failed to act against the excise mafia, illegal mining, land encroachment and on the Lalit Modi affidavit case.

“I have never called for malicious action, but the credibility we have built as the opposition has to be maintained. I had requested CM Gehlot and wrote letters, first on March 28, 2022, and then again on November 2, 2022, but got no reply,” he said.

He said it was necessary to assure people and party workers that the Congress government will deliver the promises made before the 2018 assembly elections.

“Ashok Gehlot and I made these allegations together, how will we know until there is a fair investigation? If it comes out in the investigation that no one was guilty, then we will accept that Gehlot Ji and I were liars. But until a case is registered, how will people believe that the allegations made by us are true or false?” Pilot said.

The two leaders have been bitter rivals for years but things came to a head in 2020 when Pilot rebelled against Gehlot’s leadership. Then, earlier this year, lawmakers considered close to Gehlot defied the party leadership’s diktat to allow the high-command to nominate the next CM — at the time, Gehlot was the frontrunner to become the next Congress chief — because there was speculation that Pilot would become the next CM.

Gehlot lashed out at Pilot in an interview to a news channel last November, calling him a traitor who cannot be made CM. The former deputy CM hit back, saying the remarks were unbecoming of a senior leader.

On Sunday, Pilot continued: “One of the suggestions I had given to the high command was that action should be taken against the allegations of corruption and scams that we had made while in the opposition. It should not appear that we had made allegations looking to the election.”

In the letter he shared with the media, dated March 3, 2022, addressing the CM, Pilot wrote: “You (Gehlot) and I had assured public that action will be taken after impartial probe. The people voted us in 2018. It’s been three years but no concrete step or action has been taken.”

Cabinet minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas backed Pilot, saying “he has right to raise issues and ours is a democratic party. What is wrong in getting corruption issue probed during BJP tenure?”.

A senior leader and minister considered close to the CM, while asking not to be named, said: “It is unfortunate the way he is creating the drama, which is against party’s discipline. When he had raised the issue with party leadership and the CM, what was the need of announcing the anshan… isn’t his intention to be questioned?”

Officials in the CM’s office did not respond to requests for a comment.

Congress state incharge Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said: “He (Pilot) didn’t speak to me on the issue. I met him in Delhi and Jaipur but he discussed his grievances and political issues.”

“It is unfortunate as this is time everyone should fight unitedly, and such incidents would give opposition a chance to make mockery,” said Randhawa.

Political analyst Manish Godha said Pilot’s action reflected a kind of desperation as election were nearing and none of his demands were being met. Among these demands was a change in guard and disciplinary action on leaders responsible for the boycotting a legislature party meeting on September 25, 2022.

BJP MLA and former minister Vasudev Devanani accused the Congress of “unnecessarily dragging BJP in their infight”. “Why was Pilot silent for over four years? It’s just that he isn’t getting the importance in the party, so playing the BJP card.”

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    Sachin Saini is Special Correspondent for Rajasthan. He covers politics, tourism, forest, home, panchayati raj and rural development, and development journalism.

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