As it firefights everywhere, sparks that it hoped to have doused are flying again in the Congress in Rajasthan. After Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot dug up his old row against Sachin Pilot, accusing him of colluding with Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to try and oust his government, Pilot shot back on Monday, saying he had learnt “not to take statements by the CM otherwise”.
Seeking the top post since the Congress won in Rajasthan in 2018, the Pilot camp had as recently as April suggested, after a fresh round of meetings with the high command, that “a change of guard is no more not a possibility”.
However, Gehlot has been unyielding, and having again proved his utility to the Congress in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, ensuring extra votes to see all of the party’s candidates through, is not expected to start making concessions now.
The latest volley of words was started by Gehlot, when referring to a remark made by Shekhawat, he said: “Ab aap jo Sachin Pilot ka naam le rahe ho, ki unhone chook kar di, toh aur proof ho gya, thappa laga diya aapne khud ne, ki aap unke saath mile hue the (You are taking Sachin Pilot’s name, that he missed out, so it’s further proof, you have stamped it yourself, that you were hand in glove with him).”
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Responding after two days, Pilot said: “Earlier too, the CM has said things about me, called me nakara, nikamma (useless, worthless)… But see, Ashok Gehlotji anubhavi hain, buzurg hain, aur pita tulya hain, woh kabhi-kabhi kuch bol dete hain toh main usko otherwise nahin leta (Ashok Gehlotji is experienced, he is an elder and like a father figure. When he says something, I do not take it otherwise).”
With the CM’s latest comment coming just four days after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi referred to Pilot jokingly as an example of party leaders’ patience, in Gehlot’s presence, Pilot added: “Recently, Rahul Gandhiji praised my patience from his heart. And now when a leader like Rahul Gandhi appreciates my patience, toh kisi ko bhi unke statement se anavshyak roop se pareshan nahin hona chahiye aur isko right spirit mein lena chahiye (then no one should unnecessarily worry themselves over his statement and should take it in the right spirit). And I believe that when Rahul Gandhi has appreciated my patience so much, I don’t think there is anything else left to be said.”
The sequence of events this time also followed a set pattern, with Gehlot making provocatory statements to goad Pilot into a reaction. Pilot, who lost both the posts of deputy CM and state Congress chief after the failed 2019 rebellion, has refrained from bringing matters to a head.
On October 2 last year, as Pilot supporters called for a young face as CM, Gehlot referred to an angioplasty procedure he had had, and said: “For 15-20 years, nothing will happen to me. Now if you want to be sad, be sad, it’s not in my hands.”
Five days later, Pilot responded on the occasion of a book launch, after the host said he might not be around for long but would want to launch a book by Pilot. Pilot said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be here for 50 years.”
In March this year, Gehlot suggested Pilot had got a ministerial berth in the UPA II government through his help. Two weeks later, Pilot responded that he had sought a Lok Sabha ticket for Gehlot’s son Vaibhav in 2019, even though the party high command was not in favour of it.
Apart from ensuring that the failed revolt of Pilot remains fresh in public memory, Gehlot’s messaging also appears directed at the party leadership.
Pilot’s supporters say that Gehlot’s comments come every time there is an “indication of a leadership change in Rajasthan”. A loyalist said the BJP too is playing along. “It suits Shekhawat to have Gehlot continue as CM because there is anti-incumbency. It suits Vasundhara Raje to have Gehlot continue as CM, it suits the BJP to have Gehlot continue as CM, and it suits Gehlot to have Gehlot continue as CM. Any change would make things difficult for the BJP since they will have to work harder, while right now they feel they have a very strong upper hand.”
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