A day after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot launched a scathing attack on former deputy CM Sachin Pilot terming him “gaddar (traitor), there was an uneasy quiet in the state on Friday, with party leaders largely maintaining silence and being in a wait-and-watch mode, while some are hoping for a quick resolution of the festering factionalism.
The Indian Express spoke to several party leaders who either toed the party line when they spoke or refused to wade into the controversy altogether. MLA Harish Chaudhary and Pilot loyalists Khiladi Lal Bairwa, who is the SC Commission chairman, and minister Rajendra Gudha were the only exceptions.
Cabinet minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said, “Congress is a democratic party. We all are proud members of the party that got us Independence. And the leadership of Congress’ tallest leader Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi ji and party president Mallikarjun Kharge ji is so strong that wherever there is estrangement due to competition in the Congress family, the leadership is capable of resolving it.”
“In the context of Rajasthan, I can only say that the Congress family, despite the circumstances, will unite under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and lakhs will join the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan,” he told The Indian Express.
Others such as cabinet minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Tika Ram Jully steered clear of the controversy. “I don’t have anything to say. The party high command has already instructed us to not give any statements. We are with the high command, whether it acts now, or later, we will support its decision.”
On September 29, Congress general secretary K C Venugopal directed party leaders in Rajasthan to refrain from making “public statements against other leaders or about party’s internal matters”.
Congress MLA from Jaipur’s Adarsh Nagar, Rafeek Khan, took the opportunity to attack the BJP. “Here, the media is talking only about two people. But in BJP, six people are fighting. Vasundhara Raje, Satish Poonia, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, or Om Mathur, the list goes on…all are claiming their varchasva (domination).”
“Such issues come up when there is democracy in a party, so democratically there will be a solution,” Khan said.
Party in-charge for Punjab and Chandigarh and MLA from Baytoo, Harish Chaudhary, said, “He (Gehlot) is the sanrakshak (guardian/patron) of 102 MLAs. Advice isn’t given to a guardian, but taken. This is the tradition. Despite that, the one in my (Congress) family who is an elder and is a guardian, I have to request him to use good words, because this is Rajasthan.”
Pilot loyalist Khiladi Lal Bairwa said, “It is the high command which decides. The words used (by Gehlot) indicate arrogance and a challenge to the party high command.”
As for Gehlot’s charge that Pilot barely has the support of 10 MLAs, Bairwa said, “When there is one-to-one with MLAs, it will all be clear.”
Minister Rajendra Gudha, also of Pilot camp, said, “Gehlot is doing gaddari and is not accepting the high command’s will. If you have proof (that Pilot camp MLAs took money from BJP in 2020), why have you made them ministers in your cabinet? Why are you not acting against them?” On Gehlot’s claim that Pilot has little support among MLAs, Gudha claimed, “over 80 per cent of MLAs are with Pilot.”
In contrast, a Gehlot loyalist said, “Nothing is going to happen. Pilot’s supporters have won from a Gujjar dominating belt, and Pilot will again ensure their win, while other Congress MLAs will also win. So I think this time we will cross 125 seats.”