Congress Doors are still open for Pilot: Rahul Gandhi
NEW DELHI : “This is our last attempt at reaching out to Pilot made at the behest of Rahul Gandhi. We are leaving the door open because Rahul Gandhi is keen on not letting him go. Now the ball is in Sachin Pilot’s court.
The Congress Wednesday made a last-ditch effort to reach out to rebel leader Sachin Pilot with party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asking him to “stop discussions with the BJP, and return as a family member” to Jaipur.
“This is our last attempt at reaching out to Pilot made at the behest of Rahul Gandhi. We are leaving the door open because Rahul Gandhi is keen on not letting him go. Now the ball is in Sachin Pilot’s court. Party sources said this was done at the behest of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who doesn’t want Pilot to leave the party.
Day after being sacked as deputy chief minister, Sachin Pilot today reiterated that he is not joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha, who was suspended for ‘anti-party activities’ after supporting Pilot, said that the ‘battle has just begun’.
“We’ve seen Sachin Pilot’s statement that he won’t join the BJP. I’d like to tell him that if you don’t want that, then immediately come out of the security cover of the BJP’s Haryana government, stop all conversations with them and come back to your home in Jaipur,” said Surjewala.
In the same press briefing yesterday in which senior Congress leader and spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala announced the sacking of Pilot and his two aides, he said the doors were still open for the rebels if they wanted to talk it out.
According to a top sources in AICC , the last-minute effort was made on the directions of Gandhi. “Rahul Gandhi ji is very fond of Sachin Pilot and, over a period of time, has entrusted him with several responsibilities. No other leader would have been given so much freedom after such actions, but a door is still being left open so that he can think and decide,” a senior Congress leader told.
Sources further said the lack of clarity on whether Pilot will return to the party or join the BJP is what is delaying the cabinet reshuffle exercise too. Barely an hour before Surjewala’s press conference, which had a conciliatory approach, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, without taking Pilot’s name, said “some from the younger generation like to be involved in horse trading”.Following this, sources said, Gandhi stepped in and asked Surjewala to hold a press conference.
Meanwhile, Gehlot in an interaction with reporters said: “Horse trading was being done in Jaipur, we have the proof. We had to keep people at a hotel for 10 days, if we had not done that, the same thing that is happening in Manesar now, would have happened back then.
“We have love and support for our younger generation… but these young leaders have not struggled like us… they never had to struggle to get to various posts in the party. Some from the younger generation like to be involved in horse-trading,” he said.
The Congress has accused the BJP of trying to reel in these MLAs with offers of money and posts. With the rebel squad looking significantly weakened, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was less restrained than his party as he accused Sachin Pilot of “making deals”.
But the Congress, while listing ways in which Mr Pilot defied the party, added that family was always welcome. “Come back to the family and return to Jaipur, show your true dedication and commitment,” Mr Surjewala said.
But Chief Minister Gehlot went on the offensive, claiming proof of Mr Pilot’s role in horse-trading. “We have the proof that horse-trading was being committed. Rs 20 crore was offered.
Those who took the money are at the hotel. Our deputy chief minister and PCC (state Congress chief) himself was doing the deal and was giving statements that no horse-trading was taking place. What clarifications are you giving when you yourself were involved in it,” Mr Gehlot alleged.
This morning, the rebels were issued notice by the Rajasthan assembly Speaker for “anti-party activities” and were asked to respond by Friday. Mr Pilot was on Tuesday sacked as Deputy Chief Minister and removed as state Congress chief.
Signs of a retreat were seen in Mr Pilot reemphasizing this morning that he is not going to the BJP and remains a Congress man. “I would like to make it clear that I have no plans to join the BJP. The BJP link is an attempt to malign me with the Gandhis,” told Mr Pilot.
The BJP, which has 73 MLAs, needs the support of another 35 to take power in Rajasthan. But after talking of a floor test, the party backed off today. “We do not feel such need (for a floor test) as of now. If we feel the need, the party (BJP) will sit together and make a decision,” said Gulab Chand Kataria, Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan.
Chief Minister Gehlot’s camp claims he has the support of 106 MLAs, up from yesterday when the Congress appeared to be barely at the half-way mark in the 200-member assembly. Mr Gehlot needs 101 votes to stay in power. Before Sachin Pilot’s rebellion, the Congress had the support of 122 MLAs.
The numbers are large enough to keep the Gehlot camp on edge, even if most of the 107 Congress MLAs and independents have expressed confidence in his leadership. The state assembly has 200 MLAs and those close to Pilot are already calling for a test of strength on the floor of the House.
(With Inputs from Jaipur).