Even as Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and former deputy CM Sachin Pilot on Tuesday attempted to show a united front amid the dragging war-of-words between them, HT has learnt that Congress general secretary KC Venugopal conveyed a stern message to the leaders during a meeting for the Rajasthan leg of the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Venugopal warned the leaders against infighting and making controversial statements, and said now was not the time to weaken the party, senior party members who were present at the meeting said.
Tuesday marked the first day Gehlot and Pilot, who have been locked in an incessant leadership battle in Rajasthan, met after the CM last week claimed that Pilot could not be made the chief minister because he did not have ‘10 MLAs’ and that he was a ‘gaddar’ (traitor).
Pilot hit back by calling the allegations baseless, and said that they were unnecessary at a time when the party needed to be united.
Emerging out of the preparatory meeting for the Bharat Jodo Yatra that is set to enter Rajasthan on December 4 from Jhalawar in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Venugopal, Gehlot and Pilot tried to stage a united front in Jaipur a day back, with the CM reiterating Gandhi’s comments on Monday that both he and Pilot were “assets” to the party.
Gehlot said that since Gandhi has said so, the matter should be put to rest.
Behind closed doors, however, Venugopal reportedly said that strict action would be taken within 24 hours if leaders were to now make controversial statements.
“Without naming ministers, Venugopal said that they were making unnecessary statements in the media, and if they did so now, they may be removed within 24 hours. He said that leaders should concentrate on their respective departments,” one Congress leader, who was privy to the meeting, said.
Another leader said Venugopal stated that such statements weaken the party, and harm its fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“He said that public comments had sent a wrong message through the party,” the same leader said.
Venugopal also met Gehlot and Pilot separately in a meeting that lasted around 20 minutes. “This latest warning is also because the party wants to avoid any further discomfiture before Rahul Gandhi’s yatra,” the Congress leader added.