The sustained cold war between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and senior leader Sachin Pilot may be put on the hold for now, after intervention from the top leadership of the Congress party. The tussle between the two leaders got revived last Sunday when Pilot conducted a press conference against the CM’s “inaction” on allegations of corruption in the Vasundhara Raje government,
While Gandhis haven’t yet directly met with Pilot since his press conference, they have been in touch with the leader via intermediaries, mostly comprise of senior leadership of the party. On Thursday, Pilot is learnt to have met with senior Congress leader Kamal Nath along with General Secretary K.C. Venugopal, to discuss the matter and the one-day hunger strike that he held earlier in the week in Jaipur to demand probe against corruption allegations on the previous BJP government.
Sources told The Quint that despite the notice issued by the AICC in-charge for Rajasthan, Sukhjinder Randhawa, against Pilot’s protest, the top Congress leadership isn’t keen on taking an action against the former deputy CM.
Moreover, now Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath, who is known to be close to the Gandhis, has been given the responsibility to play an active role in handling the Rajasthan crisis and help resolve the issue—at least until the state elections scheduled for December.
Leadership Not Happy With Randhawa's Approach: Sources
Sources said that the Congress leadership is trying to avoid a Punjab-like-situation to play out in Rajasthan, at all costs. In 2022, ahead of the Punjab state elections, the Congress saw great turmoil with senior leader Navjot Singh Sidhu leading an open revolt against then CM Captain Amarinder Singh, which eventually led to the party replacing him with a brand new CM—Charanjit Singh Channi. Congress’ drubbing in the polls was partly attributed to these last-minute changes and public war of words, something the party could do without in Rajasthan.
Sources also told The Quint that while Randhawa is leaning towards taking some sort of disciplinary action against Pilot for his protest, Rahul Gandhi isn’t keen on it, and has asked party president Mallikarjun Kharge to take a call on the matter. Moreover, sources also said that the Gandhis aren't too happy with Randhawa's handling of the crisis, and believe it could have been managed in a less confrontational and more conciliatory manner. Randhawa is seen as being close to CM Gehlot.
As Pilot went ahead with his hunger strike, despite a warning from Randhawa, the AICC state in-charge a day later said that his words weren’t “pro-party.”
"I am analysing all that happened and will prepare a report as to who is at fault. The press conference that he did I did not feel that it was pro-party," Randhawa told ANI on Wednesday.
Pilot's PCC Ambitions
On the table are the initiation of reconciliatory talks between Pilot and Gehlot, to induce some stability ahead of the elections in the state.
However, sources in Rajasthan Congress said that Pilot is eyeing the post of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, a post he held earlier before he was removed from it in 2020 following his ‘rebellion’. Now with state elections round the corner, the post of PCC chief will be highly coveted, since the PCC chief decides much of the ticket distribution in the party.
Moreover, after Pilot’s shrouded attack against the Gehlot government, RLP chief Hanuman Beniwal has said that he is ready to forge an alliance with the former deputy CM, if he forms his own party. Beniwal on Wednesday said that RLP and Pilot’s party combined can win over 100 seats and stop BJP and Congress. While this may just be posturing at this point, it plays to the Congress’ fears of a possible split in its votes, given Pilot’s following in the Gurjar belt.
The party is hoping to reach some sort of a compromise between Gehlot and Pilot, where the latter is given an influential enough role to keep him at rest for now, without snubbing the CM.