Days after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s public outburst against rival Sachin Pilot raised the hackles of the party leadership, the Congress said on Sunday that the veteran leader should not have used “certain words” against the young leader.
While saying that the party needs both Gehlot and Pilot, the Congress also made it clear that it would not shy away from taking “tough decisions” in the interest of the party.
Sources in the party said the leadership is seized of the Rajasthan matter but a decision will be taken only after the Rajasthan leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The yatra will enter Rajasthan in the first week of December and the party leadership is keen that the feud between Gehlot and Pilot does not cast a shadow or disturb it in any way. The leadership has so far ensured that factional differences — in Kerala, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh — don’t overshadow the yatra. A clear message to keep the differences aside till the yatra is over was sent out to leaders of the Madhya Pradesh Congress too.
Sources in the Congress said Gehlot’s sharp offensive against Pilot — he called him a “traitor (gaddar)” who colluded with the BJP — has upset the leadership, primarily because it has come days before the yatra is to enter Rajasthan, and there will be renewed focus on the simmering tussle between the two all through the yatra in the state.
For the first time on Sunday, the party made it clear that Gehlot should not have used certain words. Making it clear that the party values both Gehlot and Pilot, AICC communication head Jairam Ramesh admitted that “there are some differences” between the two, but added that “some words used by the chief minister were unexpected… I was also very surprised. And I can also say that the chief minister should not have used certain words.”
The Congress had initially responded cautiously to Gehlot’s attack, with Ramesh saying he was a “senior and experienced political leader” and “whatever differences he has expressed” with Pilot “will be resolved in a manner that strengthens the Congress party”. A day later, he called Gehlot’s remarks “unexpected”. Going a step further, he said on Sunday that Gehlot should not have said what he said.
Asked about the possibility of a leadership change, Ramesh said: “Gehlot is a senior and experienced leader of our party. Sachin Pilot is a young, popular and energetic leader. The party needs both of them. There are some differences… but whatever solution that will be found in Rajasthan… the Congress leadership is thinking about it… the way forward will be keeping in mind the interest of the party.”
“Individuals are not important. People will come and go. Veteran leader, experienced leader, young leader…all that doesn’t matter. Organisation is supreme. And the issue will be resolved in a manner that strengthens the party…I cannot set a time frame. That the Congress leadership will decide…the only criteria is whether the decision will strengthen the party or weaken it…If tough decisions are to be made…they will be taken. If an agreement is to be arrived at…that will be done. On one side is a senior and experienced leader who has held many posts…at the state level, national level and in the organisation, and on the other is a young, popular, energetic and active leader. We need both.”