Congress leader Sachin Pilot went ahead with his hunger strike or ‘anshan’ against the Ashok Gehlot government on Tuesday, 11 April, despite a clear warning from the party leadership that any such protest would be deemed “anti-party.”
Pilot’s protest began at around 11 am and ended close to sunset. Pilot sat on a stage with his supporters at Jaipur’s Shahid Smarak, in front of a massive banner which had an image of Mahatma Gandhi and a title that read 'Vasundhara Sarkar Mein Huey Bhrashtachar Ke Virudh' (Protest against corruption under the Vasundhara government). There was no reference to CM Gehlot in the banner.
Interestingly, there were no Congress symbols on the banner or on the stage. While Pilot’s supporters could be seen carrying the national flag, the Congress flag was conspicuous by its absence.
Pilot’s supporters thronged the protest, shouting slogans in praise and support of the leader.
Gehlot's Cabinet Minister's Son Present
Anirudh Singh was also present in the audience, who happens to be the son of Congress leader Vishvendra Singh, a cabinet member in the Gehlot government. When social media users took note of his presence at Pilot’s protest, Anirudh replied saying, “It was not a Congress stage. I WILL go wherever Sachin Ji goes and that’s the end of it.”
Pilot’s protest saw songs like ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola’ and other such revolutionary anthems being played while he sat on the stage.
While the leader waived out to the supporters, and also addressed the key allegations against BJP's Vasundhara Raje, he refrained from responding to the Congress' ostensible backing of Gehlot.
Congress' Support for Gehlot, and Warning to Pilot
A night before Pilot’s scheduled protest, All India Congress Committee in-charge for Rajasthan, Sukhjinder Randhawa, released a statement warning the former deputy CM against holding such a protest.
“Shri Sachin Pilot’s one-day long fast tomorrow is against the party’s interest and is anti-party activity. If there is any issue with his own government, it can be discussed in party forums instead of in the media and public. I have been AICC in-charge for the last five months and Pilotji 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 Randhawa, AICC Rajasthan in-charge
Prior to this, on Sunday, when Pilot held a press conference levelling allegations against the Gehlot government of going soft on the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government, the Congress soon released a statement saying the party will go to the polls this year on the back of the achievements of the Gehlot government.
"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 Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan was an outstanding success made possible by the dedication and determination of the party organisation in the state. 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."-Jairam Ramesh, Congress' Communications General Secretary on 9 April
In the press conference, Pilot had said that the Congress had come to power in 2018 promising action against Raje's administration.
He had also said that he wrote to CM Gehlot twice on the matter, but did not receive a response.
"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.
"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 had said.