A DAY after Sachin Pilot called off his rebellion against Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, the stage has been sent for a possible meeting of the two factions of the state Congress unit on Wednesday, but party sources said the bitterness and trust deficit that marked the month-long acrimony is far from over.
Sources said many of the 100-odd MLAs in the Gehlot camp are not happy with the way the leadership has welcomed Pilot back. Some of them are learnt to have spoken out at the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in Jaisalmer on Tuesday, which was attended by Gehlot, state party president Govind Singh Dotasra and central leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Ajay Maken, Rajasthan in-charge Avinash Pande among others.
Sources said State Youth Affairs Minister Ashok Chandna and Independent MLA from Sirohi, Sanyam Lodha, spoke out against the rebel MLAs. “They said that discipline should be maintained… the Pilot camp is still making comments,” sources said.
According to sources, Gehlot and Surjewala told the MLAs that the party high command’s decision has to be respected by all.
Sachin Pilot interview: Most MLAs were scared…we thought by going to Jaipur they will be harassed
On Tuesday evening, Pilot’s supporters indulged in sloganeering at his residence, saying, “Humara CM kaisa ho? Sachin Pilot jaisa ho.” Speaking to reporters in Jaipur, Pilot said he was hurt by Gehlot’s statements.
Sources said Gehlot wanted to thank his MLAs for staying with him. The meeting on Tuesday was also called to build a consensus on their future course of action.
According to party sources, another CLP meeting is likely to be held on Wednesday, which the rebel MLAs are also expected to attend. The MLAs camping in Jaisalmer are likely to be moved to a resort in Jaipur on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Gehlot struck a reconciliatory note in public, saying that it is his responsibility to win back the hearts of the rebel MLAs. “The people who have come back, why did they go, in which situation, what promises were made to them, why are they angry with me, we will try to address all this… I am the chief minister, and if my party MLAs are angry with me, then it is my responsibility… to win back their hearts,” he told reporters.
Responding to a question on whether peace would prevail in the party organisation in Rajasthan now, Gehlot said: “Shanti rahegi. Shanti, sadbhav, bhaichara, sab rahega (There will be peace. There will be peace, harmony, brotherhood).”
Sources close to Gehlot told The Indian Express that the real credit for resolving the crisis should go to the MLAs who remained with the party. “It is they who should be rewarded, not the rebels,” said a senior leader.
“He (Pilot) has come back since he could not wean away more MLAs. He had promised to break away 40 MLAs… what happened,” said a senior leader close to Gehlot. He said Gehlot had agreed to work with Pilot only because the party high command had asked him to do so.
While the Congress leadership said on Monday that a three-member committee would be constituted to address the grievances of Pilot and his 18 MLAs, the composition of the panel is yet to be announced.
Gehlot said if the MLAs have any grievances, they could approach the panel.
“It has become history now, how more than 100 people stayed together for such a long time, and not even one person left. The BJP leaders put in all their efforts and conspired to bring down the government at any cost. In that situation, if not even a single MLA left us, you can imagine what we are feeling in our hearts. I have told them that you have made history and as long as I am alive, I will remain your guardian,” said Gehlot.
“Right now, the issue is about saving democracy,” he said. “The party will stay united, it will govern for the whole five years and we will win the next elections. This conspiracy was hatched by the BJP, the opportunity to teach them a lesson will come during the 2023 elections. The government was in majority earlier, it is in majority today, and will remain in majority in the future too. They (BJP) have not succeeded,” said Gehlot.
Gehlot avoided responding to questions about his earlier comments terming Pilot as “nikamma” (worthless).
Earlier in the day, three independent MLAs – Om Prakash Hudla, Suresh Tak and Khushveer Singh – who were said to be supporting Pilot, met Gehlot at his residence in Jaipur. Their names had cropped up in the investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau into an alleged attempt to topple the Gehlot government. The trio had left Rajasthan and were camping in the National Capital Region for the last few weeks.