Scrambling to avert a Punjab-like debacle in Rajasthan, the Congress leadership is hoping to have found a peacemaker in senior leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath to mediate between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, sources have told NDTV.
Kamal Nath met Mr Pilot and party general secretary KC Venugopal in Delhi on Thursday and discussed ways to resolve the differences between the two factions, sources said.
In what was seen as a direct challenge to Mr Gehlot and a move seemingly directed at carving a greater role for himself ahead of elections later this year, Mr Pilot held a day-long fast this week against the alleged corruption of the previous BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje and accused his own party’s government of inaction.
The Congress leadership, which had initially backed Mr Gehlot and issued two statements in his support, calling Mr Pilot’s fast an “anti-party activity”, has now changed its stance and is trying to find a middle ground. Sources said that Mr Pilot conveyed his grievances to Kamal Nath and Mr Venugopal and sought fair treatment from the party.
According to Congress insiders, Mr Pilot also defended his fast against Ms Raje, saying that it was not anti-party and that he was raising issues of public interest. He argued that there was a double standard in the party when other leaders criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath for their alleged failures.
The Congress leadership is also reportedly unhappy with the statement issued by the newly appointed in-charge of Rajasthan Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and senior leader Jairam Ramesh, who had vetted the statement calling Mr Pilot’s fast an “anti-party activity”. Many within the party are upset with the poor and abrupt handling of affairs by Mr Randhawa, who is seen as close to Mr Gehlot.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has tried to find a middle path and wants all sides to mend the rift, especially as the party is fighting an important election in Karnataka. The party is also aware of the weakness of Mr Gehlot and the huge anti-incumbency his government is facing in the state, sources said.
Kamal Nath, who has had a series of meetings in the past few days, is trying to pacify both sides and find a solution that will not precipitate a crisis. Sources close to Mr Pilot say he is being pushed to a wall and is upset with the way the new state in charge has already taken a biased view without understanding issues and concerns in Rajasthan.
For now, the party is deferring a decision and trying to see if backchannel talks can broker a truce that will hold until the state elections.