Hours after a BSP-turned-Congress MLA from Rajasthan alleged that Sachin Pilot had offered him money to join the BJP, Pilot hit back on Monday, saying such “vexatious” allegations were being levelled to “malign” him and to “stifle” the “legitimate concerns” that he had raised against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Sources close to Pilot said his next move will depend on the outcome of the battle in court.
In his first written statement since the crisis began on July 12, Pilot said: “I am saddened but not surprised to be at the receiving end of such baseless and vexatious allegations being leveled against me. This is done solely to malign me and to stifle the legitimate concerns that I had raised against the party leadership of the state, as a member and MLA of INC. This attempt further aims at defaming me and attacks my credibility.”
“The narrative is being redirected to avoid addressing the main issue. I will be taking appropriate and strictest possible legal action against the MLA who was made to make these accusations. I am sure more such concocted allegations will be thrown at me to cause aspersions on my public image. But I shall be unfettered and remain firm in my beliefs and convictions,” he said.
Pilot’s statement came on a day when Gehlot called him a “nikamma” and a “nakara” (useless and worthless). Sources close to Pilot said Gehlot’s “venomous” outbursts proved Pilot’s point that Gehlot had never given him respect or treated him well. Gehlot has said in television interviews that he and Pilot had not spoken to each other for the last one-and-a-half years.
These sources said Pilot’s next move will depend on the verdict of the High Court, where he and his 18 MLAs have challenged the disqualification proceedings against them. An adverse verdict will, of course, limit his ability to manoeuvre. On the other hand, a favourable ruling will give him the space to take his battle against Gehlot, within the party, to a new level.
Sources said Pilot has not snapped his links with the party leadership and has repeatedly said that he is not joining the BJP. Sources close to him said he has told the Congress leadership that Gehlot never gave him his due, despite the fact that he had worked hard as PCC chief. In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress won 41 of the 49 seats in the 12 eastern districts of Rajasthan where he carried out a focused campaign, Pilot is learnt to have told the leadership.
Ten of the 18 MLAs with Pilot are from eastern Rajasthan, where the Congress won most of the seats in districts like Dausa, Karauli, Bharatpur, Sikar and Jaipur. The Congress won 18 of the 24 constituencies in Tonk, Dausa, Karauli and Sikar districts. Eight MLAs in the Pilot camp are from these four districts.
Sources close to Pilot said he would never join the BJP, but the Gehlot camp was out to tarnish his image before the Congress leadership. Congress MLA from Badi, Giriraj Singh Malinga’s allegation on Monday that Pilot had offered him money to join the BJP is part of that attempt, they said. Addressing a press conference in Jaipur, Malinga claimed that Pilot had offered him Rs 35 crore to switch sides.
The Pilot camp pointed out that in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections on June 19, there were allegations of horse-trading and Malinga had denied receiving any offer to switch sides.
Meanwhile, former minister and Dausa MLA Murari Lal Meena hit out at Gehlot for his remarks against Pilot. “He is such a senior leader… the language he has used today…it seems he has lost his balance. I believe no politician should use such language,” he said.
Meena is among the 18 MLAs supporting Pilot. “Pilot and all of us are still in the Congress. We have raised certain issues… It is painful to hear such language from such a senior leader… How can he say that Pilot has not done anything? When Pilot took over as PCC chief, the Congress had 21 seats,” he said.
“He (Gehlot) is a seasoned politician. It is part of a well-planned, well thought-out strategy. He wants to push Sachin and all of us out of the Congress… otherwise, why would anyone use such language,” he said.
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