As face-saver for Raj ex-Dy CM, Cong forms panel to look into issues flagged by him
The month-long crisis in Rajasthan Congress ended on Monday after rebel leader Sachin Pilot opted for an “unconditional” truce and his MLAs left for Jaipur from Maneshar in Haryana.
The breakthrough was worked out by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, who met Pilot two weeks ago. The process of reconciliation was set in motion in that meeting. Pilot completed the formality of his “home coming” by calling on Rahul Gandhi and later announcing his commitment to work for strengthening the Congress.
For a “face saver” Pilot was offered a three-member committee that would look into the issues flagged by him regarding the functioning of the Rajasthan Government and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s style of governance.
KC Venugopal, Ahmed Patel and Priyanka Gandhi are part of the committee set up by Sonia Gandhi to address grievances of Sachin Pilot and his supporters.
Late at night, Pilot and his supporting MLAs, who were camping in a hotel in Maneshar, arrived at Rahul Gandhi’s residence where Priyanka, Congress organisational general secretary KC Venugopal and Ahmad Patel were present. The MLAs are believed to have conveyed their grievance to the Gandhis, who promised to look into them.
Talking to the reporters —his first media interaction after he rebelled against Gehlot — Pilot said, “Sonia Gandhiji heard all our concerns and the governance issues that we raised. Formation of the three-member committee by the Congress president is a welcome step. I think all the issues will be resolved.”
Pilot kept repeating that he was only trying to raise issues about governance and functioning of the Government and there was nothing personal in his action against anyone.
Throughout his press interaction, he never named Gehlot but expressed dismay on name calling and invectives hurled on him.
KC Venugopal said Sachin Pilot expressed his grievances in detail. “They have had a frank, open and conclusive discussion. Sachin Pilot has committed to working in the interest of the Congress party and the Congress Government in Rajasthan,” he said.
With at least 5-6 of the 18 MLAs supporting him not ready to risk expulsion and the BJP not in a position to help him achieve his objective to topple the Gehlot Government because of lukewarm response from former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Pilot has few options but to return “home” unconditionally.
Sources said his meeting with Rahul was arranged by Priyanka at Rahul’s residence, where both the Gandhi had “meaningful” discussion with Pilot.
Sources said after Pilot left Rahul and Priyanka, met Sonia to discuss the latest developments following which Sonia called on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot over phone. Gehlot reportedly assured Sonia Gandhi that he will not defy the party irrespective of the decision it takes on Pilot. He left the matter to Sonia and Rahul to resolve.
Sources said that no action will be taken against rebel MLAs. It has also been promised that the rebel Ministers of the Pilot camp will again be given the ranks of Ministers. Even if not immediately, Cabinet expansion will be done soon.
Sources said Pilot during the last few days had made back channel attempts through senior leaders of the party to have a word with the Congress’ first family which he ignored despite several attempts made by the party leadership to pacify him.
Late Monday night when reports began to trickle in that dissidents staying at a hotel in Gurugram have started returning to Jaipur, Priyanka reached at party troubleshooter Ahmed Patel’s residence to deliberate further on Pilot’s future.
Congress organisation general secretary KC Venugopal had visited Gehlot and his MLAs in Jaisalmer on Saturday and informed them about a possible end to the month-long stalemate. Venugopal urged the CM to not give any fresh statement against Pilot.
“This time the party was quick to respond as Jyotiraditya Scindia exited and joined BJP after blaming the same leadership for not giving him a personal audience for over a year. Yes, we can say the party this time was sensitive in handling the internal affairs as Scindia case could be an eye opener for them,” said a senior party leader.
The move ahead of the Assembly session on Friday where the Congress is likely to go for a trust motion is significant as this is being seen as a step forward in breaking the deadlock in Rajasthan where Pilot along with 17 MLAs raised a banner of revolt against Gehlot.
Another party leader said that the meeting of Pilot with Gandhis was a “positive development” but speculated that Pilot must have put certain conditions agreeable to Gandhis after so much mudslinging in recent days.
“Much has changed over the last one month. Pilot has been removed as both Deputy Chief Minister and State unit chief of the party. Any negotiation will happen only when both sides take a clear stand on who is willing to walk how many steps. We have to also keep in mind that right now the talks are limited to Delhi and the views of Rajasthan’s top leadership will also be crucial,” said the party leader.
Sources said that Pilot has assured Congress high command that he will end his rebellion and there will likely be no action against rebel Pilot loyalists.
Pilot is unlikely to get any role in Rajasthan Congress or Gehlot Government for now but he might be roped in for key responsibilities in AICC. The month long battle started by Pilot witnessed allegations against Union Minister Gajendra Singh for toppling the Government and the matter reached the Rashtrapati Bhawan as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in form of a serious charge by Gehlot.
Source mentioned that disciplinary action initiated against Pilot loyalists Vishvendra Singh, Ramesh Meena and Bhanwarlal Sharma may be dropped for now as Sharma already met Gehlot ending his rebellion. Singh and Meena, who were dropped from the Gehlot Cabinet along with Pilot last month, may get back their portfolios.
Gehlot on his part immediately called a meeting with the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC) president Govind Dotasra in Jaipur to discuss handling of the day’s development.
Sources from both the Congress and the BJP mentioned that sudden change of aspiration within Pilot camp could have been after they realised that BJP leader and former CM Vasundhara Raje was reluctant to support Pilot joining the BJP and then take over as the CM. Of the total of BJP’s 72 MLAs in Rajasthan, 40 are Vasundhara loyalists.
All MLAs of Gehlot camp are at a resort for nearly a month now while the Opposition BJP has kept its legislators at places in Rajasthan as well as Gujarat.
Tuesday, 11 August 2020 | Deepak Kumar Jha/PNS | New Delhi/jaipur
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