New Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot rift surfaces, Congress quells storm

The two Congress camps in Rajasthan that nearly cost the party the government in the state a few months back
New Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot rift surfaces, Congress quells storm

JAIPUR: The two Congress camps in Rajasthan that nearly cost the party the government in the state a few months back are at it again. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, while inaugurating a Congress office in Sirohi district recently, had said that the State government was saved from a crisis as the senior leaders suspended the rebels within the party fold.

He also accused the opposition BJP of restarting the "game of thrones" yet again to topple his government.

The rebel leaders, he was insinuating at, were former Pradesh Congress Committee chief and his former deputy Sachin Pilot and the Tonk leader's loyalists, including Ramesh Meena and Vishvendra Singh who were suspended and removed as State Ministers when Pilot with his 18 MLAs went to Manesar in open rebellion against the Gehlot leadership. Gehlot's sudden comments have left all stunned.

However, sources from the Congress camp revealed that the Rajasthan Chief Minister is planning to make political appointments and expand his cabinet.

At this point, his camp doesn't want his former deputy and his team to be re-inducted and hence comes this statement, sources said. All this as Congress lost big in the Panchayat body and ZilaParishad polls on Wednesday as counting was still underway at several places.

The central leadership has been in a damage control mode and has intervened on time before things were exaggerated. Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken made an immediate statement soon after Gehlot's comments in Sirohi. He said that Pilot stands as an asset for the party contradicting Gehlot's claim and assured that the State government was safe. The two statements made by Maken have become the most-discussed issue in political corridors.

There are whispers about whether all was well between Gehlot and the Congress high command. Gehlot has not visited Delhi after Pilot was inducted back into the party, after he nearly jolted Gehlot with a 'coup'.

The central leadership replaced AvinashPandey (Gehlot camp) by Ajay Maken (from Rahul Gandhi's camp) after receiving feedback from the Pilot camp. Also a three member team was formed to listen to Pilot's grudges which had included K.C. Venugopal, Maken and Ahmed Patel.

Gehlot at that time had termed Pilot as "nikamma and nakara" (incompetent and useless). However, with the intervention of veteran leaders like the late Ahmad Patel, Pilot returned to the party. Ever since there has been speculations that one of the two will have to be shifted to Delhi to make things smoother in the State.

Both camps, speaking to IANS, have denied it and termed such possibilities as "rumours" and that both leaders were "sons of the soil" and will stay put in the State. Maken, this time quoted Priyanka Gandhi's statement, who had after the earlier crisis termed Pilot "an asset for the party". All eyes are now set on who will get better appointments — Gehlot or Pilot camp — in the party.

Further, the State PCC which was dissolved post crisis also needs to be reconstituted. Maken said that the PCC shall be formed again by December 31 and by January 31, board and corporation presidents shall be appointed. In fact, the Congress State chief Govind Singh Dotasara also met Pilot soon after attending the meeting on political appointments which, sources said, left the Gehlot camp aggrieved further. (IANS)

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