Sachin Pilot today said Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s leader seemed to be the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje and not Sonia Gandhi, making direct hits at his bitter rival just a day before his Congress party faces the crucial Karnataka election.
In an all-out attack on Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot said he would not quit the party as he didn’t want to ruin its chances ahead of the Rajasthan election later this year. Instead, he announced a “Jan Sangharsh Yatra” from Ajmer to Jaipur to highlight corruption.
The riposte followed Ashok Gehlot’s stunning remarks last weekend that former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje helped save his government when Sachin Pilot revolted in 2020 along with a few MLAs.
“After hearing the Chief Minister’s speech in Dholpur, I think his leader is not Sonia Gandhi, but his leader is Vasundhara Raje,” Mr Pilot told reporters.
“He (Gehlot) alleges that BJP tried to topple his government. Then he says a BJP leader helped save his government. He should explain the contradiction.”
At the rally on Sunday, the Chief Minister had claimed that Vasundhara Raje and two other BJP leaders helped save his government and that money was given to MLAs to switch to the BJP and topple his government. Mr Gehlot also took a swipe at the MLAs who had rebelled, saying they “should return the money”.
The comments targeted the BJP as well as his party rival in one stroke.
Not mincing words, Mr Pilot accused Mr Gehlot of insulting his own MLAs and harming his own party ahead of the election.
“I now understand why no action was taken against corruption by the Vasundhara Raje government despite my repeated requests,” Mr Pilot said, accusing Ashok Gehlot of going soft on the BJP because of a secret understanding.
The former Deputy Chief Minister said he had tolerated much name-calling and attacks from Mr Gehlot over the past two-and-a-half years. “He called me gaddar (traitor), nikamma (useless), corona…Many insinuations and abuses were directed at me. I didn’t say anything as I didn’t want to damage the party,” he said.
He also claimed his yatra was not aimed at Mr Gehlot. “The yatra is not against anyone but is against corruption,” he asserted.
He also defended his 2020 revolt saying MLAs wanted a leadership change in Rajasthan.
The latest round of Gehlot Vs Pilot renews the spotlight on a festering crisis that the Congress has been compelled to handle in an election year.
Many believe Mr Pilot is pushing the Congress to act and planning a well-timed exit before the polls.
The Gehlot-Pilot feud cropped up soon after the Congress’s 2018 victory in Rajasthan, over the chief minister’s post.
Though Mr Pilot agreed to play second fiddle to the veteran, he revolted in 2020, the year Covid erupted worldwide. He camped for days near Delhi but ended his strike after the Gandhis assured him a solution.
The rebellion fizzled out as 100-plus MLAs chose to stay with Mr Gehlot. At no point has Mr Pilot been able to produce more than 20 MLAs in his support, making it tougher for the party to pick a side.
Last year, some 70 MLAs resigned in protest against the Congress’s move to make Mr Gehlot party president, which would mean his replacement in Rajasthan, possibly by Mr Pilot.
Earlier this year, Mr Pilot launched a solo campaign for the Rajasthan polls soon after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state.
Mr Gehlot, with his frequent attacks on his former Deputy, has made it clear that he will not stand back.