The power tussle and the infighting in Rajasthan Congress shows no signs of abating as Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday ripped into his bitter rival Sachin Pilot, amid the fresh advances by the latter’s camp demanding change in leadership in the state ahead of next year’s Assembly polls.
Speaking to NDTV, Gehlot launched a no-holds-barred attack on Pilot, calling him a ‘gaddar’ (traitor) and said that the party high command can never make him the chief minister, as he “doesn’t even have 10 MLAs”.
“We cannot accept a gaddar (traitor) as Chief Minister. Make any of the 102 loyal MLAs Rajasthan Chief Minister. How will we accept a man who has done gaddari (betrayal)? High Command can’t make Sachin Pilot Chief Minister, a man who doesn’t have 10 MLAs, a man who has been called a traitor,” Gehlot was quoted as saying.
Recalling Pilot’s infamous 2020 revolt, which had brought the Gehlot government to the brink of collapse, Gehlot, as quoted by NDTV, said: “It must be a first for India that a party president tried to bring down his own government.” He also claimed Pilot’s revolt was “funded by the BJP” and enabled by senior BJP leaders including Amit Shah.
“Amit Shah was involved in Sachin Pilot’s (2020) rebellion… Rs 5-10 crore money was picked up from BJP office in Delhi and given to MLAs (who revolted). I have proof,” Gehlot told NDTV.
The chief minister also refuted Pilot’s claim that there was a promise of rotating CM by the party high command when the party won the Assembly polls in 2018.
Sachin Pilot, upset since being denied the chief minister’s in 2018, staged a rebellion in July. Including him, 19 Congress MLAs stayed away from legislative party meetings, defying the chief minister and the party.
Gehlot lodged his loyalists at hotels till the time the party leadership in Delhi intervened and Pilot gave up the revolt. The CM won a trust vote in the assembly. Pilot was sacked as the Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Congress President for his revolt against the party and its leadership. However, Gandhis are believed to have promised Pilot back then of giving him the chief ministership later.
In September 2022, a CLP meeting was called to discuss the possibility of a change in chief ministership as Gehlot was then seen as a frontrunner for the Congress president post. This would have paved way for Pilot to take up the top post in the state. However, in an unprecedented sequence of events, more than 90 MLAs from the Gehlot, sensing the party high command’s plan to give the CM chair to Pilot, boycotted the CLP meeting and submitted their resignations to the Governor.
The party high command sent senior party leaders Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge to look into the issue and submit the report on the same to Sonia Gandhi. The report indicted three Gehlot loyalists to have engineered the revolt, and demanded strong disciplinary action against them.
While the issue remained shelved for two months amid the Congress presidential polls, the Pilot camp is now demanding that he be announced as the chief minister before Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra enters the state this month end.