Congress leader Sachin Pilot has given a 15-day ultimatum to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot over inaction on alleged corruption.
Pilot has been claiming lately that the Gehlot-led Rajasthan government has not taken any action on alleged corruption during the previous government led by Vasundhara Raje of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the latest episode of his long-running tussle with Gehlot, Pilot has threatened that he would launch a statewide agitation if no action is taken over his demands in the next 25 days.
Pilot made the latest threat at a public meeting marking the completion of Pilot’s five-day foot march from Ajmer to Jaipur over the same demands.
The intensification of Pilot's offensive against fellow party leader Gehlot comes months before assembly elections in Rajasthan and at a time when the Congress central leadership is seeking to strike a balance between chief ministerial hopefuls Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar in Karnataka.
Sachin Pilot raises new demands
Flanked by at least 14 other Congress MLAs at a rally in Jaipur on Monday, dissident leader Pilot served notice on Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot — agree to their demands by the month-end or face a state-wide agitation.
Apart from a call for a high-level probe into alleged corruption by the previous BJP government, Pilot spelled out two other demands — disbanding the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) and its reconstitution, and compensation for those affected by the cancellation of government recruitment exams after paper leaks.
He said, "If action is not taken by this month-end on these three demands, an agitation will be launched across the state."
Pilot also referred to the one-day fast he held last month.
"So far, I have done ‘anshan’ and taken out a ‘yatra’. If action is not taken in the interest of the youth on these three demands, I will launch an agitation in the entire state. We will walk on foot with people in villages and hamlets, and get them justice," said Pilot, as the crowd of several thousand people shouted in support.
भ्रष्टाचार के विरुद्ध शुरू की गई जन संघर्ष यात्रा में पिछले चार दिनों में राजस्थान के कई हिस्सों से जनता ने भागीदारी की।— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) May 15, 2023
चौथे दिन के यात्रा के कुछ क्षण... pic.twitter.com/hOW1AZAfyh
Pilot said nothing will cow him down.
He said, "I promise that I will continue to serve the people of Rajasthan till my last breath, even if I remain on any post or not. Nothing can scare me or suppress me. I have fought for you and will continue to do so."
Sachin Pilot's show of strength
Pilot said his agitation was not against anyone but against corruption and for the youth. But Gehlot, who became the chief minister after the party ignored his own claim to the post in 2018, was clearly the main target.
Pilot's rally also served as a show of strength ahead of assembly elections in Rajasthan.
Rajasthan Forest Minister Hemaram Choudhary, Sainik Kalyan Minister Rajendra Gudha and SC/ST Commission chairman Khiladi Lal Bairwa were among the Congress legislators on the dais, indicating support for the leader who headed a rebellion against Gehlot in 2020.
Deependra Singh Shekhawat, Harish Meena, Giriraj Malinga, Rakesh Pareek, Ramniwas Gawriya, Indraj Gurjar, Virendra Choudhary, Suresh Modi, Vedprakash Solanki, G R Khatana, Mukesh Bhakar too were present.
The show of strength by Pilot comes just months before the assembly polls when the party hopes to return to power in Rajasthan.
आज जनसभा में pic.twitter.com/H69gI11Apw— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) May 15, 2023
When Pilot announced his fast against corruption last month, the Congress had termed it anti-party activity.
Pilot's barbs on Gehlot camp
At the Jaipur rally, Pilot also referred to the boycott by Gehlot loyalists of a Congress Legislature Party meeting in September last year, called amid speculation then that Pilot will be made the chief minister and Gehlot the party’s national president.
Pilot said whoever talks about factionalism and betrayal of the party should introspect over their own “betrayal” and the “insult” to party leader Sonia Gandhi last year.
They should think over "whether we or they broke discipline", said Pilot.
"We remained in public even after being abused and worked for strengthening the organisation, and you are abusing and maligning us after devouring the cream (‘malai’),” Pilot said in an apparent reference to the Gehlot camp. "This will not do."
Pilot recalled a recent remark by Gehlot in which he credited BJP leaders Vasundhara Raje and Kailash Meghwal for "saving" his government in 2020 – when Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs rebelled.
"What kind of policy is this that you malign the image of your own party leaders and praise others. I have never levelled charges against anyone. I have never said a bad word against anyone. They left no opportunity to abuse me but this does not worry me," said Pilot, adding that in a democracy, it’s the people's blessings that count.
Questioning the selection of the RPSC chairman and members, he claimed that it was common knowledge that these appointments were political.
"The appointments need to be done in a transparent manner, and people like scientists and lecturer need to be chosen," said Pilot.
The long-running Pilot-Gehlot tussle
Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot have been locked in a tussle since 2020 when Pilot led a rebellion against Gehlot.
As Deputy Chief Minister, Pilot camped away from his loyalist MLAs in an apparent rebellion. His rebellion eventually failed and he was removed from all posts he held.
However, the war of words and actions have continued since with Gehlot calling him "traitor", "useless", and "worthless", and Pilot leading agitations against his own party's chief minister that you would expect the Opposition to be doing.
During the 2020 rebellion, Gehlot lashed out sharply at Pilot and called him "nikamma" (worthless) and "naakaara" (useless).
Hum jaante the ki nikamma hai, nakaara hai, kuch kaam nahi kar raha hai, khali logo ko ladva raha hai. :Ashok Gehlot, CM, Rajasthan pic.twitter.com/sovJ64DtXC— Mojo Story (@themojostory) July 20, 2020
"I knew he is worthless and useless and he is doing nothing but makning people fight...I don't want that it appears in Delhi that people in Rajasthan are only fighting. I taught everyone how to respect Rajasthan Congress Pradesh Committee chief [Pilot]. When he comes, we should stand up. He is younger [as state party chief] but the post is bigger. I taught this to everyone, gave all the respect [to Pilot]. Then such a person stabs Congress in the back," said Gehlot in 2020 when Pilot's rebellion was on.
The tussle came to the fore again in the run-up to Congress party's presidential elections last year.
Gehlot loyalist MLAs defied the party high command's diktat and boycotted the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and held a parallel meeting of their own. It was understood at the time that the Congress high command wanted Gehlot to contest the party chief's election and, once he would have become party chief, wanted Pilot to replace Gehlot as Rajasthan CM as Gehlot could not have been on two posts under the party's one person-one post rule.
However, the defiance of Gehlot loyalists foiled this plan and Gehlot walked out of the contest.
Later, Gehlot called Pilot a "traitor" and said a "gaddar" (traitor) could never become chief minister.
(With PTI inputs)