Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday ended with his profuse apologies to her, his withdrawal from the party president’s race, and suspense over his continuation as CM. However, photos of a note he carried into the meeting show he had come fully prepared to put across his side of the story.
The note with its pointers, which included expression of regret to Sonia, was captured by Malayala Manorama photographer Suresh Jayaprakash.
It was Gehlot’s first meeting with Sonia since the political crisis began in Rajasthan on September 25.
As per photos of the note, Gehlot planned to start off saying, “Jo hua bahut dukhad hai, main bhi bahut aahat hun (What happened is very sad, I am also deeply hurt),” an apparent reference to Congress MLAs skipping a CLP meeting called for by Sonia, and instead announcing their support for Gehlot.
His next point was: “Rajneeti mein hawa badalte dekh, saath-chhor dete hain. Yehan aisa nahin hua (There is a culture of changing sides looking at the changing political scenario. It didn’t happen here)… ” The one reason the Gehlot camp has been citing against Sachin Pilot being made CM is his 2020 failed rebellion against the party, allegedly backed by the BJP.
Gehlot appeared to make a reference to this again in the next few points. One of this read “SP will leave party — observer pehle… report dete toh party ke liye achcha hota (If observers had given a… report earlier, it would have been good for the party)”, while another said, “Pehla pradesh adhyaksh jisne sarkaar girane ki poori koshish ki (The first state president who tried his best to topple the government)”, and a third read, “102 versus SP + 18…”.
The Gehlot camp leaders often talk of Pilot being perhaps the first state president to have conspired to overthrow his own party’s government. While the Gehlot camp had 102 MLAs with it at the time of the 2020 crisis, Pilot mustered the support of 18 MLAs besides himself.
The next point on Gehlot’s note is “10 Cr. – BJP karyalaya – paise wapas nahi… (the money didn’t return…).” In May this year, ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, Gehlot had said that in 2020, Rs 10 crore was being offered to MLAs to switch sides but even then, no one among the Independent MLAs, or the BTP, CPM, RLD and BSP MLAs had withdrawn support to the Congress.
The subsequent three points read: “Goondagardi (goondaism), vindictive, arrogant”, “Vidhayakon mein bhay (fear among MLAs)”, and “Pushkar – Shakuntala…”. The reference appears to have been to the September 12 heckling of Rajasthan ministers Ashok Chandna and Shakuntala Rawat, considered Gehlot camp leaders, at the asthi-visarjan (immersion of ashes) ceremony of late Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla in Ajmer’s Pushkar.
Chandna, who was reading a message from CM Gehlot, had footwear and allegedly empty water bottles hurled at him. The crowd also raised ‘Sachin Pilot zindabad’ slogans during his address, forcing Chandna to stop his speech midway. Also present on the stage was Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot, who had to leave without addressing the programme.
In a tweet a few hours later, Chandna said, “If Sachin Pilot becomes the Chief Minister after getting shoes thrown at me, then he should do so quickly because I am not in the mood to fight today. The day I come to fight, only one (of us) will be left.”
Rawat, who spoke before Chandna, was similarly heckled but managed to complete her address.
One of the last points on Gehlot’s note, only partially visible, read: “Manesar…” During the 2020 rebellion, Pilot and other rebel MLAs had holed up at a hotel in Manesar, Haryana.