Rajasthan: Congress Infighting Unlikely To End Soon, Gehlot Talks Of ‘Loyalty’ After ‘Truce’ With Pilot

The Congress high command has made yet another attempt at truce between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot by assigning them responsibilities with eyes on the upcoming state assembly elections. The details of the truce are not in public yet.

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot with his former deputy Sachin Pilot

The Congress party on Monday night announced that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot will go into the upcoming state assembly election together. This was the high command’s attempt to bring the two sparring sides to a truce. 

Details of the truce, however, are not yet known as the grand old party did not reveal the details or division of responsibilities for both the leaders in the upcoming elections.

The meeting on Monday was called by Congress high command after Pilot, who has been attacking Gehlot for not acting on alleged corruption during Vasundhara Raje’s chief ministership, had given an ultimatum of two weeks to Gehlot’s government. In open rebellion, he has lately held a sit-in protest and a statewide yatra. 

In April, Pilot sat on a one-day protest against alleged corruption to pressurise his own party leaders to act on the corruption cases. Then, earlier this month, the 45-year-old leader took out a five-day Jan Sangharsh Yatra from Ajmer to Jaipur.

However, the Congress high command now hopes that the two leaders would work together in Rajasthan.

“Congress President Malikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi ji had a four-hour-long discussion with Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot on upcoming Rajasthan elections and they decided to fight election unitedly. Both were in agreement that they will fight elections unitedly and make Congress win Rajasthan state polls,” said Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal after the meeting on Monday in Delhi.

Details of ‘truce’ not known, Pilot’s role in party not clear

When asked about the ‘peace-pact’ and corrective measures the Congress party has taken to end the infighting between the two leaders, Venugopal said that it will be handled by the high command. 

“In the upcoming assembly polls, it will be a joint fight against the BJP in Rajasthan,” added Venugopal.

A source close to Pilot told Outlook that, despite the meeting, there is no clarity about the roles and responsibilities for Pilot in the upcoming Rajasthan assembly elections.

The source said, “Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot have come together for a photo-op several times but this time Congress high command’s intervention should have made clear the role of Pilot in the upcoming elections. Pilot, who has been touring the state and protesting against corruption, still has no clarity on his responsibilities in the upcoming polls.”

This is not the first time that both the leaders have been summoned to Delhi for discussions with Rahul and Kharge. Exactly six months ago, just before the Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Rajasthan in December, a similar attempt of truce was made by the high command but it did not work out. 

A day later, Gehlot talks about ‘loyalty’ and ‘patience’

A day later after the meeting, replying to a question if Pilot would work together with him, Gehlot told the media, “Why won't he? If he is in the party, why won't he?”

When asked about the role Pilot would be taking up in Rajasthan ahead of the polls, Gehlot said, “As far as the role is concerned, it is the party high command that will decide, not me.”

However, without mentioning Pilot, Gehlot said, “One wins trust by giving trust. If everyone comes together, we will repeat the government in Rajasthan. One only wins trust by giving trust. One has to remain loyal and as Congress leader Sonia ji once said, one who keeps the patience will get a chance one day.”

The verbal duals between Gehlot and Pilot supporters over the past three years have now snowballed into an all-out war in the wake of the recent crisis.  

In 2018, after Congress came to power in Rajasthan, Pilot was promised that the post of Chief Minister would be shared between him and Gehlot. While Gehlot was sworn in as the Chief Minister, Pilot was appointed as his deputy. Unhappy with the post, Pilot rebelled in 2020 along with his 18 loyalist MLAs who went to Delhi and camped for over a month which resulted in a political crisis in Rajasthan.

The Pilot’s rebellion eventually failed and he was removed from the post of Deputy CM and the state unit chief of the party.

In the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, the ruling Congress has 106 MLAs, the BJP 71, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) three, the CPI(M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two each, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) one. The assembly has 13 independent legislators as well.