Signalling the widening rift in the Rajasthan Congress, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said that Deputy CM and state Congress president Sachin Pilot should take responsibility for his son Vaibhav Gehlot’s defeat from the Jodhpur seat in the Lok Sabha polls.
In an interview to ABP News, Gehlot said: “...Pilot sahab ne kaha kuch din pehle bhi ki bahut bhaari bahumat se seat jitegi Jodhpur ki. Hamare wahan par che MLA hai, shandar campaign hamne kiya hai to mai samajhta hoon ki kam se kam us seat ki zimmedari toh woh lein…ki Jodhpur ki seat jo hai, uska pura post-mortem hona chahiye ki kyon nahi jite ham log.”
“(…Pilot had said a few days ago as well that we would win the Jodhpur seat with a handsome margin, that we have six MLAs there and that we had run a great campaign, so I think that at least he (Pilot) should take the responsibility of this seat…on the Jodhpur seat, its post-mortem should be done on why we didn’t win).”
Gehlot also said that whether it is the Chief Minister or the state party chief, the Congress had to take collective responsibility for losing all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state to the BJP. Vaibhav lost to Union Minister and BJP leader Gajendra Singh Shekhawat by a margin of 2.74 lakh votes.
When contacted, Pilot expressed his surprise over Gehlot’s statement but did not offer further comment. Gehlot later posted a clip of his interview on Twitter and wrote, “This was my reply to some questions during the interview…Some sections of the media are making an unnecessary issue out of the context.”
Amidst the controversy, Gehlot and Pilot met Tuesday at the iftar party hosted by the state Congress. At the event, both met briefly behind closed doors before sitting together at the party.
Sources in the Congress, however, said that Gehlot’s comments are part of the ever-widening rift within the party in Rajasthan. Incidentally, after the LS election defeat, two Rajasthan ministers had targeted Gehlot, and demanded “introspection” and “accountability” for the setback.
In an indication of the divide, several MLAs The Indian Express spoke to appeared divided on laying the blame for the poll debacle.
Congress MLA from Bandikui Gajraj Khatana told The Indian Express, “I feel that Jodhpur has been the home and workplace of Ashok Gehlot ji. I don’t think that Sachin Pilot ji should take responsibility for the defeat. In the natural course it would appear that when the seat in question is Jodhpur and that too his son is being fielded, what can somebody else do anything in this,”
A section of MLAs also supported Gehlot and said that they agree with his statement. “I think what the Chief Minister has said is right and he must have said it after due thinking. In case of a defeat, everyone should take responsibility of the party’s defeat,” said Rajasthan Minister for Minority Affairs Saleh Mohammed, an MLA from Pokaran under the Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat.
The result in the Jodhpur seat was in sharp contrast to that of the Assembly elections in December last year, when the Congress won 7 out of 10 seats. Gehlot has also been an MLA from Sardarpura in Jodhpur since 1998 and during the Lok Sabha elections, Vaibhav lost from this assembly segment as well by a margin of almost 19,000 votes.