Days before Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ enters Rajasthan, the raging factional war within the Congress refuses to abate in the state. Hours after Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot referred to his former deputy as a “traitor” who would never be acceptable as CM, a minister from his own cabinet has shot back, claiming that 80 per cent of Congress MLAs in the state were firmly behind Sachin Pilot.
“We will leave our stake for the chief ministership if you do not find 80 per cent MLAs with Sachin Pilot… There is no better politician than him,” state minister Rajendra Singh Gudha told reporters, demanding that a meeting of Congress legislators be called at the earliest for him to prove his claim.
The remarks came following a showdown between the rival giants in Rajasthan Congress, with Pilot dismissing Gehlot’s remarks, and allegations that all rebel legislators were paid Rs 10 crore each in 2020.
“Ashok Gehlot is a senior and experienced leader, I don’t know who is advising him to level false, baseless allegations against me. Today it is required to strengthen the party,” Pilot said, speaking to news agency ANI.
The two leaders have drawn swords against each other ever since the party high command decided to go with Gehlot as CM following the 2018 elections in the state. The Pilot camp has since claimed on multiple occasions that the party leadership had agreed to a formula for rotational chief ministership. The Gehlot camp, however, dismisses this as falsehood.
With elections due by the end of next year, there is a renewed clamour to appoint Pilot as the Chief Minister and project him as the face of the Congress going into polls. Since the previous elections, the Pilot camp has maintained that the Congress would not have returned to power had it not been for the then PCC president’s efforts and popularity.
“BJP was badly defeated in Rajasthan when I was the state party president. Still, the Congress president gave Gehlot another chance to become CM. Today, the priority should be on how we can again win the Rajasthan election,” Pilot said speaking to ANI, terming the allegations against him unjustified when Congress needs to put up a united front against the BJP and support the Bharat Jodo Yatra to make it successful.
The comments by Gehlot also drew a response from the central leadership of the party with Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh trying to control the damage. “Ashok Gehlot is a senior and experienced political leader. Whatever differences he has expressed with his younger colleague Sachin Pilot will be resolved in a manner that strengthens the Congress,” he said.