Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot

At a time when Congress leader Sachin Pilot was seen along with Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo yatra, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot called him a ‘gaddar’ (traitor), and said that he will not allow Pilot to become the CM of Rajasthan. Gehlot made the comments in an interview with Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV, where he said that Sachin Pilot is a traitor who orchestrated a revolt to get the position of the chief minister.

When asked if the Congress High Command desired to make Pilot CM, Gehlot responded, “How are they going to make him? A man with less than ten MLAs. Who revolted; and was labelled a traitor. He betrayed the party and is thus a traitor. How are people supposed to accept him?”. Gehlot said, “A gaddar (traitor) cannot be Chief Minister.” 

Further, as the Jain said that Sachin Pilot had said he was unhappy within the Congress, and so he revolted, Gehlot said that if he was unhappy with the Congress party, he should have gone to ‘Madam.’ “If he had gone to AICC HQ and sat there, it would have been different. For the past 50 years, protestors have gone to AICC. They have spoken to Madam. Raised their complaints,” Gehlot stated.

“The MLAs are saying that we won’t accept a ‘Gaddar‘. But you also agree with this?” Sreenivasan Jain asked, to which Ashok Gehlot responded, “I accept it, of course, why not?” Ashok Gehlot further remarked that nothing sort of a ‘rotating CM’ formula was promised in 2018 and that the best person to answer this query would be Rahul Gandhi.

“It must be a first for India that a party president tried to bring down his own government,” Gehlot said about the revolt by the Pilot camp in 2020. He also alleged that the failed revolt was engineered and funded by BJP. “Amit Shah was also involved in it, Dharmendra Pradhan was also involved in it. All had a meeting in Delhi,” he alleged.

Ashok Gehlot also alleged that the rebel Congress MLAs had met BJP leaders at that time, and that BJP had distributed ₹10 crore each to the MLAs who were staying at a Gurugram resort. He said that while he does not know which MLAs got money, he knows that some got ₹5 crore, some for ₹10 crore, and claimed that he has proof.

Sachin Pilot calls the allegations baseless

After the comments of Ashok Gehlot created a storm, Sachin Pilot responded to it by calling the allegations baseless. “Ashok Gehlot called me ‘incompetent’, ‘traitor’ and made lots of allegations. These allegations are completely unnecessary. What we need is to see how we can strengthen the Congress party. We have to see how we can make Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra a success,” Pilot said.

He also suggested that Gehlot should concentrate on the Gujarat elections, as he is the party’s in-charge there, instead of attacking him. He said, “Only Congress can challenge the BJP in the country.  Elections are underway in Gujarat, where Ashok Gehlot is in-charge. We have to put up a united fight to defeat the BJP.” 

He posted a photograph on Twitter where he is seen with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra at Bharat Jodo Yatra, and wrote, “Today is a new day of Bharat Jodo Yatra but the resolve and enthusiasm to connect the country remains the same. Participated in Bharat Jodo Yatra which started today from Borgaon, Madhya Pradesh. Every step with @RahulGandhi ji and @priyankagandhi ji indicates a positive change.”

Rajasthan minister Rajender Singh Guda, a member of the Pilot camp, said that Sachin Pilot is being surrounded like Abhimanyu. “Sachin Pilot has been surrounded like Abhimanyu. And like him, he knows how to penetrate the Chakravyuh,” the minister said.

The Congress party is facing omens of a split in the state of Rajasthan with leaders in two camps, the Pilot camp and the Gehlot camp, taking to extremes about seeing their leaders for the top job. Recently, Hemaram Choudhary, a Rajasthan government minister who is close to Pilot, stated that the party came to power due to Sachin Pilot and that given his hard work, he should be handed the responsibility.

Suchitra Arya, vice president of the State Agriculture Industry Board, also advocated for Pilot’s elevation as chief minister. She said, “If the situation doesn’t change, the party will collapse. Sachin Pilot is an important face and lakhs of people come to hear him. It’s the limit now; he should be made the chief minister.” She stated that if Sachin Pilot is made the CM, only then would Congress be able to reclaim power.

Infighting in Rajasthan Congress

The schism between the two factions within the state administration became obvious in July 2020, when rebel Congress politician Sachin Pilot was sacked as Deputy Chief Minister and State Congress Chief by the Congress party, which accused him of planning to destabilise the government with the BJP.

This was followed by a month-long enthralling drama, with Ashok Gehlot first disclosing that the two were not on talking terms for the past 1.5 years. The tussle became bitter when the Rajasthan CM lashed out at the rebel leader by calling him “Nikamma and Nakaara (useless).” The show reached its climax with ultimately Sachin Pilot returning to his home turf and conceding before Ashok Gehlot.

Soon, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot informed that a 3-member committee was constituted by the Congress party to resolve grievances with Sachin Pilot. He claimed that peace and brotherhood would always remain in the grand old party. Things got sorted for a while but the differences surfaced again in September 2022.

On September 23, it was announced that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot would run for the presidency of the Congress Party. However, he stated that he intends to stay as Rajasthan’s Chief Minister even if he is elected as the Congress Party’s Chief.

Later that day, Rahul Gandhi stated unequivocally that if a person currently holding a position in the Congress Party is chosen as its leader, that person will resign from his post. With the possibility that Gehlot would have to resign as Chief Minister, the political scene in Rajasthan got frenzied, especially with rumours that Pilot would be the next Chief Minister.

The MLAs who supported Gehlot became irritated as soon as rumours about Sachin’s name surfaced. On September 25, a Congress Legislature Party meeting was scheduled, the second in a week. However, at the last minute, around 90+ MLAs threatened the leadership with resignation if Pilot’s name was confirmed. They wanted Gehlot to remain the state’s chief minister.

After visiting Sonia Gandhi on September 29, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot admitted moral responsibility for the state’s political crisis and withdrew his nomination from the Congress presidential election.

Resignation by party state in charge Ajay Maken

Recently this month Ajay Maken, the general secretary of the Congress, resigned from his position as the party’s in-charge for Rajasthan. Makhan was reportedly furious that Ashok Gehlot’s supporters, who were handed show-cause notices for holding a separate Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in Jaipur on September 25, have not been punished.

The Rajasthan state assembly election is coming up in around 11 months, and the Congress is in turmoil due to the seemingly never-ending feud between its two key politicians there. Pilot supporters believe a decision will be made before Rahul Gandhi arrives in Rajasthan for the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the first week of December, but party strategists doubt this would result in substantial changes.

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