The Congress high command has weaved the return of rebel Sachin Pilot and his MLAs back into the Congress fold, but the trust deficit between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Pilot camps is far from being bridged.
Even as Gehlot described the return of the rebel MLAs from National Capital Region as a “win of citizens”, the MLAs of both camps were yet to be reunited.
Speaking to journalists in Jaisalmer on Wednesday, Gehlot said, “This win, in reality this is the win of citizens of the state. All the citizens of the state boosted the confidence of our MLAs by calling them (and telling them) ‘no worries, don’t worry if it takes a month or two, the government should win, the government should be stable, and then you come to our homes.’ So this is the win of passion of citizens of the state.”
He said that more than 100 MLAs living together for a month “is a big thing in itself and this has never happened in India’s history”.
He added that the idea now is to “forget and forgive, and move on, in the interest of the nation, state, citizens of the state and in the interest of democracy, which is in danger”.
However, within a couple of hours, the MLAs in Jaisalmer packed their bags and took a flight to Jaipur airport, from where they were taken straight to Fairmont resort. Some of them, including Congress deputy chief whip Mahendra Chaudhary and Joginder Singh Awana, were all smiles and flashed victory signs.
The Gehlot camp MLAs arrived at Jaipur airport to find policemen forming a protective enclosure with ropes around buses as they boarded them.
Sources said that so far, the MLAs of the Pilot camp have not been invited to join those in the Gehlot camp at Fairmont.
Sachin Pilot interview: Most MLAs were scared…we thought by going to Jaipur they will be harassed
Notwithstanding the rebels’ return, the sources said, Gehlot will still go for a floor test and the “patch-up” can continue later.
Ahead of the Assembly session on Friday, there is also uncertainty over the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meet, since the party will have to invite the Pilot camp MLAs. Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi told The Indian Express that a decision to hold a CLP meet has not been finalised, but “when the CLP meet happens, I believe that all the honourable MLAs will be called”.
Some Gehlot camp MLAs are said to have been unhappy with Pilot’s return. At the CLP meet on Tuesday, they reportedly opposed the Pilot camp’s return into the Congress fold and pointed out how his MLAs were still making questionable comments.
ED notices to Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas have not helped matters. Coming out of ED’s Jaipur office on Wednesday, Khachariyawas said the notices were politically motivated.
“My father is 80 and unwell. He is Laxman Singh Shekhawat, younger brother of three-time Rajasthan CM and former Vice President of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the one who made BJP. My father was brought up by Bhairon Singh ji but now he is old. My elder brother was given a notice even though the cases were closed four years ago. Is it a crime to do business?” he said.
While Pilot was in Jaipur, Gehlot stayed away from the city for most of the day. On Wednesday morning, he left Jaisalmer for Jodhpur, where he paid his respects at a condolence meet for 11 Pakistan Hindu migrants who had died under mysterious circumstances. The CM then chaired a Covid review meeting from Jodhpur, and visited his elder sister Vimla Devi, who tied a rakhi on his wrist. The CM returned to Jaipur in the evening but did not meet Pilot.