“The PM had similarly praised Azad in Parliament. We saw what happened next and this should not be taken lightly,” Pilot said. Significantly, Pilot’s sharpest-ever attack , in public, on Rajasthan CM was not improptu. He was speaking to reporters whom he had invited: something which demonstrated, party sources said, his resolve to embarrass the CM and send a message to the leadership about his credentials as a loyalist vis-a-vis Gehlot.
The Rajasthan CM has successfully put Pilot in the “loyalty suspect” column by alleging that the latter was about to bolt out and join hands with BJP to install a saffron government in Jaipur.
On Wednesday, Pilot sought to even score with Gehlot on loyalty count by demanding that leadership took action against the CM loyalists who had defied the central leadership by not attending a meeting to elect CM when Gehlot was considered by Gandhis as the right choice to take over the party reins. Pilot demanded action against those guilty of indiscipline. “The climate of indecision has to end,” he said, a remark which was simultaneously interpreted as insistence to punish Gehlot loyalists, and his claim for the leadership.
Gehlot was not flinching from a fight. He responded to the offensive by suggesting that Pilot had committed indiscipline referring to the leadership’s directive not to vent grouses in public. He urged party leaders to “maintain discipline” and refrain from making political statements. “AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal has asked not to give statements. We, too, want all leaders to maintain discipline,” Gehlot told reporters during a visit to Alwar. He said the party’s focus should be on retaining the government in Rajasthan. “It is our objective to repeat the government. We have given good governance and brought so many schemes in the state, which has never happened before. We have started working towards retaining the state on good governance,” he said.
Coming at a time when Rahul Gandhi is conducting his “Bharat Jodo Yatra” and in the lead up to the the state election scheduled next year, this is neither good optics nor happy augury, said a party source.
However, the Pilot camp was swift in firing the return salvo by demanding that it was time a new leader was elected by referring to the same central functionary, Venugopal, whom Gehlot had cited.“Our organisation general secretary KC Venugopal had said that in a day or two, we will decide about the CM. Next, notices were served on Dhariwal, Joshi and Rathore. It has been more than a month since this matter happened. At that time, there was a talk of convening the CMP meeting again, but till now it has not been called,” it said.
“All I have to say is that it is a question of the credibility of the high command. The CLP should call a meeting and decide on the CM soon. Take a decision on the three leaders also,” the Pilot loyalist futher said.
Modi had praised Azad during the latter’s farewell in the Rajya Sabha in February 2021. Azad quit Congress earlier this year after a scathing attack on party leader Rahul Gandhi and formed a political party of his own in J&K.
During a public address at Mangarh Dham in Banswara on Tuesday, Modi termed Gehlot the seniormost CM in the country. “Ashok ji (Gehlot) and I had worked together as CMs. He was the most senior in our lot of CMs. Ashok ji is still one of the seniormost CMs among those who are sitting on the stage right now,” Modi had said. Without naming Gehlot, Pilot said, “The praise (of the CM) by the prime minister yesterday, I think is a very interesting development.”
Continuing his attack, Pilot urged the Congress leadership to end the indecision on the state’s leadership issue. He further demanded a decision on disciplinary notices sent to Gehlot’s two ministers and the RTDC chairman for allegedly holding a parallel Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in Jaipur on September 25.
“It is time to end the indecision on the state leadership issue by the new Congress president as only 13 months are left for the assembly elections,” he said, pointing to the promise of a decision announced by AICC general secretary K C Venugopal.
He said a meeting of the CLP had been convened in September to elect a successor to Gehlot, but it did not happen. The CM himself felt sorry and apologised to the party and also to former party president Sonia Gandhi for that, he said.
Central observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge, who had come to Jaipur then, had taken a serious view of the incident, he said. After taking cognisance of the incident, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) had considered it an issue of indiscipline and issued notices to three people. It is learned that replies have been sent to the AICC, he said.
“But I believe that Congress is an old and disciplined party. Rules and regulations are the same for all in the party. Therefore, a decision should be taken soon if indiscipline has been committed,” the former deputy CM said, adding that he believes “(Mallikarjun) Kharge ji, who has recently taken over as Congress president, will soon take a decision over this matter”.