Sachin Pilot won’t join BJP but political crisis is far from over
NEW DELHI/ JAIPUR: Even as Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot openly rebelled against CM Ashok Gehlot, the former has no plans of joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sources close to the young-leader told news agency ANI. But that does not mean that trouble for Gehlot has ended.
After being dismissed by the Congress from every office he held in Rajasthan , Sachin Pilot tweeted today, “The truth can be harassed but not defeated.” A few hours later, he expressed, again on Twitter, his thanks to his supporters.
These were the 42-year-old’s first public comments in nearly two days; his last statement, on Sunday, was to a TV Channel. “Nobody wants to leave his home, but can’t continue to put up with this kind of humiliation; my MLAs and supporters are extremely hurt and I will have to listen to them,” he said about his disengagement with the Congress which had just begun.
The Congress and Mr Pilot have clearly run out of road. All that remains now is for him to make it official by stating that he is exiting the Congress. He will hold a press conference at 10 am tomorrow.
Even as the party sacked him this afternoon as Deputy Chief Minister and as the president of the Congress in the state, it urged him to return its messages and calls. Mr Pilot took a hard pass on that offer. Like yesterday, he was a no-show this morning at a meeting of Congress legislators chaired by Ashok Gehlot.
Party leaders claimed 106 legislators were present at the meeting. However, on Sunday night, Pilot claimed that he has the support of over 30 Congress MLAs and the Gehlot government is in minority.
The Congress has 107 members in the state assembly and also claims the support of some independents. But the way Congress MLAs were packed into buses and rushed to Fairmont hotel speaks volumes about no imminent end to the crisis.
Sources say Mr Pilot made it clear that he would not yield on his demand of wanting to be promoted to Mr Gehlot’s job. The Congress conveyed to him that would not be possible, but that it would give him better and more posts for his team. Mr Pilot said his best offer was that the party announce now that he would be Chief Minister for the final year of this government’s tenure.
Though Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot have clashed habitually, the inflection point for what has turned into break point was Mr Pilot receiving a notice from the state police that made him part of an investigation into determining whether the BJP was attempting to buy Congress legislators to dissolve the Congress government in Rajasthan.
The state police reports directly to Mr Gehlot; it was clear the notice to Mr Pilot was an attempt to signal the power of Mr Gehlot. Though the Chief Minister said that he too would have to answer the police’s questions, the comeback lacked chops.
Yesterday, Mr Gehlot invited camera crews into his residence to show off the more than 100 MLAs that were gathered there, flashing the Victory sign. This morning’s meeting was held at the same resort after which Mr Gehlot visited the Governor to reassure him that he has more than the 101 MLAs required to remain in power. But from the resort leaked videos of MLAs belonging to a small regional party, alleging that they are being held captive.
Aware that Mr Gehlot’s claim of having the required numbers may lack substance, the BJP met in Jaipur and decided it can legitimately now ask for a trust vote.
Meanwhile, former Congress MP Priya Dutt lamented that her party had lost two stalwart young leaders with great potential- Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot. In a clear sign of support for Pilot, she maintained that being ambitious is not wrong. Moreover, she added that both these leaders had worked hard for the party through the most difficult times.
On its part, the Congress has been making overtures to Sachin Pilot to sit with the party and resolve issues. After the leader skipped the second party meet called today, the party passed a resolution urging action against the rebel leaders.
Shortly after that chief Congress spokesperson announced that Sachin Pilot was sacked as Rajasthan deputy chief minister and also removed from state party chief post. The development came three days after Pilot mounted a rebellion against his chief minister and boss Ashok Gehlot.
Surjewala said Sachin Pilot enjoyed the affection and blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and was given political power at a young age. Yet, he and other ministers were trying to topple the state government as part of a BJP conspiracy, he added. He also said that the decision was made with a “heavy heart”.
Two cabinet ministers — Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena who are supporting Pilot were also sacked for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to topple the Congress government in the state.
Pilot’s next move is not immediately clear. However during the run-up to Tuesday’s Congress legislature party meeting, the second in as many days which he again skipped, his supporters insisted that he had no plans to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. They said their aim was a leadership change in Rajasthan.
“Truth can be rattled, not defeated,” Pilot tweeted in Hindi soon after he was sacked. He also changed his profile on Twitter, deleting all references to his positions as deputy chief minister and Rajasthan Congress chief.
However, the mood within the party was sombre with most party leaders describing the turn of events as “unfortunate” and “sad”. Tarun Gogoi, a former Assam chief minister, compared Pilot’s situation as one he faced too and urged him to be patient.
(With Agency Inputs).