A day after Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot hit out at CM Ashok Gehlot, accusing him of inaction on allegations of corruption levelled against the previous BJP government, the Congress party is scrambling to control the damage.
In a statement released late Monday night, the Congress's Rajasthan in-charge, Sukhwinder Singh Randhawa called Pilot's strike "anti-party".
"Sachin Pilot's day-long fast on Tuesday is against the party interests and is anti-party activity. If there is any issue with his own government, it can be discussed in the party forums instead of in the media and public. I have been an AICC in-charge for the 5 five months and Pilot ji has never discussed this issue with me. I am in touch with him and I still appeal for calm dialogue since he is an indisputable asset to the Congress party."Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, AICC Rajasthan in-charge
Sources said that Randhawa is likely to visit the state on Tuesday, 11 April to hold a meeting with Pilot. Randhawa may also hold a separate meeting with CM Gehlot. Interestingly, 11 April is the day Pilot had announced as the day he will be sitting on an ‘anshan’ or hunger strike, protesting against his own government, for “failing” to take action against the Vasundra Raje government.
Earlier, on Sunday, Randhawa had criticised Pilot for going to the media with his allegations.
"We have talked about various issues but he did not raise this issue, and then going straight to the press...saying that we are not acting on corruption..” Randhawa had told PTI on Sunday.
"What we have done in Rajasthan, steps like waiving loans of farmers, on electricity bills, subsidy on cylinders, bringing back old pension scheme, he (Pilot) should have talked about that and then added that now we have to take action against corruption...But this was not appropriate," the AICC in-charge further said.
"With six seven months left for the elections, the opponents can spread an illusion that there is some collusion. Therefore, action will have to be taken soon so that the Congress workers feel that there is no difference between our words and actions," he said. The Gehlot government hasn’t yet reacted to Pilot’s salvo, but the Congress high command released a statement on Sunday, hours after Pilot’s press conference, praising the work done by Gehlot. That combined with Randhawa’s remarks make it clear that the Congress high command is, as of now, at least ostensibly leaning towards Gehlot.
What Pilot Said
"I think we should walk the talk and I wrote to Gehlot ji almost 1.5 years ago that it is time to probe the allegations that we levelled against the BJP government. The Congress should show to the people that there is no gap between our words and action," Pilot had said in a press conference he called on Sunday, 9 April.
"Due to inaction by Ashok Gehlot government against corruption cases during Vasundhara Raje regime, our opponents can question whether they are hand in glove,” the former deputy CM said, just months before the election scheduled in the state.
Pilot also insinuated that there might be talks of the Gehlot government and BJP working together, which must be countered with action.
"With six seven months left for the elections, the opponents can spread an illusion that there is some collusion. Therefore, action will have to be taken soon so that the Congress workers feel that there is no difference between our words and actions," he said.
Pilot said he wrote to Gehlot last year on 28 March and then again on 2 November on the issue but did not get any answer to his letters.
Congress Seemingly Siding With Gehlot For Now
The Congress party released a statement in praise of CM Gehlot and his work, hours after Pilot's press conference.
"The Congress government in Rajasthan with Shri Ashok Gehlot as CM has implemented a large number of schemes and taken many new initiatives that have impacted the people profoundly. This has given the state a leadership position in governance in our country," the statement, issued by Jairam Ramesh, Congress' Communications General Secretary said.
"The Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan was an outstanding success made possible by the dedication and determination of the party organisation in the state," the statement further said.
Without mentioning Pilot in the statement, the timing made it abundantly clear that the party is not willing to publicly criticise Gehlot government just months before the polls.
"Later in the year, the Congress will seek a renewed mandate from the people on the strength of these landmark achievements and the collective efforts of our organisation," the statement read.
This came just months after a continued tussle between Pilot and Gehlot, the last round of which ended in the Congress party contemplating a disciplinary action against the CM after his loyalists were a no-show Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meet called by the party high command in September last year. Since then, Pilot has routinely asked for action to be meted out against the alleged indiscipline, but the party has continued to drag its feet on the matter. With elections on the heels now, the Congress might be wary of rocking the boat, by allowing for a continued public tussle to ensue between its two top leaders in the state.