A day after former Rajasthan deputy chief minister and Congress leader Sachin Pilot's open rebellion against Ashok Gehlot, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a jibe at Gehlot and the political crisis within the state.
Speaking at the flagging off ceremony of the state's first Vande Bharat Express via video conferencing, PM Modi said: "I want to specifically thank Ashok Gehlot ji that he showed up for developmental work and participated in the Railways event despite being embroiled in a political row and facing troubles. I welcome it and congratulate him for the same."
PM Modi further said that Gehlot is at an advantage since Union Railways Minister and Railways Board chairperson is also from Rajasthan.
The event was organised at the Jaipur junction railway station and was also attended by Railway Minister Ashwinin Vaishnaw and Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra.
The jibe by PM Modi comes as Pilot sat on a day-long hunger strike in Jaipur on Tuesday to demand action against the alleged corruption by the former Vasundhara Raje-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state.
While the party leadership has has seen it as an act of "open rebellion" by Pilot against his own government, the former deputy CM is in Delhi today hoping to meet the central leadership, sources said.
During his address, PM Modi also said: "The work that should have been done immediately after India's Independence had been stalled. But you have so much faith in me that you have given me that task today."
At the event, Gehlot raised demands related to the railways in Rajasthan.
Gehlot issued a statement following PM Modi's address, saying that the prime minister deeming the tenures of all railway ministers before 2014 as "corrupt" was unfortunate and unacceptable.
"It is you who has weakened the railways by first eliminating a separate Railway Budget. Modern trains are running today because Dr Manmohan Singh as the finance minister in 1991 opened doors for economic development," adding that "it is inappropriate to say that railways developed only after 2014."
"The speech was delivered keeping in mind the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in 2023-24 and was a part of the BJP agenda for the same. I believe that such claims will not be accepted by the people of the state and the country," Gehlot added.