In Jaipur to review the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) preparations, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in charge for Organisation, K C Venugopal, brokered a truce between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former deputy CM Sachin Pilot on Tuesday. The Rahul Gandhi-led Yatra is set to enter Rajasthan over the weekend.
Venugopal met the two leaders separately behind closed doors for about half an hour and is said to have communicated the AICC’s opinion on the recent developments in the state. In a recent interview to NDTV, Gehlot said Pilot cannot be made the CM as party MLAs will not accept a “gaddar (traitor)” who colluded with the BJP to topple the government in 2020. Gehlot also alleged that the BJP had given Rs 10 crore to each MLA to bring down his government.
In the BJY review meeting with party leaders, which lasted for about two hours, Venugopal also gave a stern warning that there should not be any more incendiary public statements by party leaders. If a minister is found making such comments, he may even be dropped from the council of ministers, Venugopal is learnt to have said, emphasising that this is applicable to everyone.
While the closed-door meeting with both leaders is said to have been “positive”, the results may be temporary. Sources said the party wants both leaders to keep their differences aside and focus on the BJY.
Later, addressing a press conference flanked by Gehlot and Pilot, both of whom spoke before him, Venugopal raised their hands in the air and said “this is Rajasthan Congress” to indicate unity in the faction-ridden state unit.
“We are very much united. Here Ashok ji (and) Sachin Pilot ji both already told you that the Congress party is united in Rajasthan. This yatra is not going to be a short-term event. Till election, we will fight together and we will win the election in Rajasthan again,” Venugopal said.
Asked about comments by state Congress leaders despite his September 29 advisory, Venugopal said, “Whoever has given statements since the advisory, I asked for an explanation from the PCC president … we will take (it) up separately.” On September 29, Venugopal had directed party leaders in Rajasthan to refrain from making “public statements against other leaders or about party’s internal matters”. However, several party leaders from both factions, including Gehlot, have been commenting against each other since then.
“Yesterday that (the issue of factionalism) has been cleared by Rahul Gandhi, our leader, very clearly. Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, both are assets for the party,” Venugopal declared.
Speaking at a press conference in Indore, Rahul said on Monday, “I don’t want to get into who said what. Both these leaders are assets to the Congress. But I can say one thing with guarantee that this (feud) will have no impact on the Bharat Jodo Yatra.”
At the joint press conference, Gehlot said, “Rajasthan mein sab ekjut hain (We all are united in Rajasthan). I have said that Rahul Gandhi ji yesterday said that both politicians are ‘assets’, that Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are assets…when Rahul ji has said this, and our party’s virtue is that when our leader’s message comes, then everyone down to the base do politics together, work together and move forward on what is beneficial to the party.”
Earlier in the day, the Rajasthan CM said, “When Rahul Gandhi ji has said — he is the leader of all of us — when Rahul Gandhi ji has said asset hain, toh phir asset hain (that we are assets, then we are assets indeed). So why’s there a need for discussion? Our party’s biggest virtue, before independence and post-independence, has been that the party functions under the number one leader’s discipline. The party functions under the discipline of the Congress president. So there is nothing left to say after he has spoken.”
Gehlot went on to say, “He (Rahul Gandhi) also meant that every worker is an asset. He has said a good thing. When both politicians are assets, it means that (their) followers too are assets. So all of us assets will make the Yatra successful and will win the 2023 elections.”
At the press conference, both Pilot and Gehlot focussed on making the Yatra a historic one.
Pilot said lakhs would join Rahul Gandhi for the Rajasthan leg and make it “historic” and “number one”.
“Today we had an excellent review meeting of Bharat Jodo Yatra. On behalf of AICC, I would like to congratulate the leaders of Rajasthan for their excellent arrangement for Bharat Jodo Yatra. Fourth (December) evening it will come to Rajasthan, (and) till 21 st Yatra will be in Rajasthan,” Venugopal said after the review meeting.
“Frankly, Ashok ji and Sachin ji told here that this Yatra is going to be one of the most successful Yatras in this country. Now I am also sure that Rajasthan is going to be the number one state throughout the country, that much arrangement our leaders in Rajasthan are making,” he added.