‘Mudslinging’ in the Desert: Cracks Widen in Rajasthan Congress as Gehlot Calls Pilot ‘Gaddar’, Ex-deputy CM Hits Back

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday stirred up a row with his former deputy Sachin Pilot again, calling him a “gaddar” (traitor) who cannot replace him as he had revolted against the Congress in 2020 and tried to topple his government.

The remark drew a sharp response from Pilot who said that it was unbecoming of Gehlot to make such “baseless” allegations, and that it was not the time for “mudslinging”.

Gehlot’s comment came as Pilot’s camp is pushing Congress to make him the chief minister. In an interview with NDTV, the CM reiterated his stand on the matter and said the Congress High Command cannot make Sachin Pilot the Chief Minister. “A gaddar (traitor) cannot be Chief Minister…a man who doesn’t have 10 MLAs, who revolted against his own party”.

Alleging that Pilot had conspired with the BJP to topple his government in 2020 and had distributed money in an attempt to buy MLAs, he said the Congress can replace him with any of its 102 MLAs in Rajasthan except Pilot if the top leadership feels that the prospects of the party would improve in next year’s Assembly polls.

“The MLAs will never accept someone who has revolted and has been dubbed as a ‘gaddar’. How can he become the chief minister? How can the MLAs accept such a person as the chief minister? I have proof that Rs 10 crore each were distributed to the MLAs holed up in a Gurugram resort for toppling the Congress government in Rajasthan,” Gehlot said.

No One Should Be This Insecure, Says Pilot

Pilot, who on Thursday walked alongside Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Madhya Pradesh, hit back. “This is not a time for accusation. No one should be this insecure. Under his leadership Congress has lost battle twice. Nothing is permanent in politics, and we should work together to defeat BJP,” he said.

“It does not look good for a senior leader like Ashok ji, who has such a vast experience, to make such baseless allegations. It is not time for such mud-slinging. The effort on our part should be to work together unitedly so that we can have government in Gujarat, where Ashok ji is senior observer, and repeat the Congress government in Rajasthan,” he told news agency ANI.

AICC Does Damage Control

The AICC stepped in to do some damage control, saying Gehlot’s differences with Pilot would be “resolved” in a manner that strengthens the party.

In a statement, AICC general secretary communications Jairam Ramesh asserted that the focus right now should be on ensuring the success of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.

“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 party. Right now it is the duty of each and every Congressman and Congresswoman to make the already hugely successful Bharat Jodo Yatra even more impactful in the north Indian states,” Ramesh said.

Gurjar Leader Demands Congress High Command to Make Pilot CM

Gurjar leader Vijay Singh Bainsla on Thursday threatened to oppose Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Rajasthan unless Sachin Pilot is made the CM. Despite so, Pilot refused to side with the Gurjar leader’s claim, and said the BJP was trying to create disturbances. “No matter how hard the BJP tries, the yatra will be successful,” Pilot had said when asked about Bainsla’s threat.

Earlier, Gehlot had said his government will try to address Bainsla’s grievances. “This is democracy and everyone has the right to speak. We are ruling on the basis of the Constitution and the right to speak cannot be taken away. If there is any demand or suggestion, we will hear it out and try to address the grievances,” he said.

In his remarks, Bainsala said the Gurjar community had voted Congress to power in Rajasthan, believing a person from their community will be made CM. To this, Pilot said the Congress was reduced to 21 seats in the 2013 assembly elections, but the people gave it a mandate in the 2018 elections. Talking about the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the former deputy chief minister said he was confident that the yatra will be “historic” and that the people are excited.

Meanwhile, sources suggest that Pilot and his supporters expect a decision soon. As rumblings of dissent grow in the desert state ahead of the Bharat Jodo Yatra entering it on December 3, Pilot’s supporters reportedly said time is running out and he must be made Chief Minister at the earliest, as the Gandhis had made a commitment. Meanwhile, Gehlot’s supporters continue to maintain that Pilot tried to topple the government by joining the BJP.

Earlier on Wednesday, both Pilot and Gehlot took part in a meeting organized by Rahul Gandhi, related to Bharat Jodo Yatra’s scheduled arrival in Jaipur. According to reports, both of them refused to see eye to eye during the meeting, and also didn’t sit together.

The two have been engaged in a power tussle since the government came to power in 2018.

Gehlot’s September Rebellion

Things came to a head earlier this year in September while the Congress was in the process of electing its next party president.

In September, around 92 legislators from the Gehlot camp attended a parallel meeting hosted by Shanti Dhariwal at his residence in Jaipur and skipped the legislature party meeting convened for passing a resolution authorising the Congress chief to appoint a successor to Gehlot, who had then announced to contest for the Congress presidential election.

The MLAs had opposed Gehlot’s arch-rival Sachin Pilot’s possible elevation to the CM post and demanded that Gehlot’s successor should be chosen from his camp. They also mentioned Pilot’s 2020 rebellion, saying the party must reward those who stood by it during that crisis.

Later, Congress served show-cause notice to three Rajasthan ministers – Shanti Dhariwal and Mahesh Joshi, and Dharmendra Rathore — for “grave indiscipline” Gehlot had also apologised to then party interim chief Sonia Gandhi over the rebellion by MLAs from his camp and pulled himself out of the Congress presidential race.

(With PTI inputs)

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