Rahul Gandhi has been given a sharp reminder of the unresolved feud in Rajasthan. (File)
Just before his Bharat Jodo Yatra enters Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Rahul Gandhi has been served a sharp reminder of the festering power struggle in the state between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his rival Sachin Pilot.
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A prominent leader of the Gurjar community has warned of disruptions in the Congress's prestige yatra if Sachin Pilot is not made Chief Minister.
"The current Congress government has completed four years and one year is left. Now Sachin Pilot should be made Chief Minister. If this happens, then you (Rahul Gandhi) are welcome. We will oppose otherwise," Gurjar leader Vijay Singh Bainsla has said.
Sources close to Sachin Pilot have disassociated him from the statement and have said the controversy is being created to harm the former Deputy Chief Minister. "Why not take it up with the Chief Minister? Why harm the yatra?" the sources questioned.
Mr Bainsla, who has batted for Sachin Pilot before, raised the demand on a day the Congress leader was to join Rahul Gandhi's yatra in Maharashtra. Speaking to NDTV, he said he had no option and that the Congress government had reneged on an agreement with the community in 2019, which included a quota promise. "The whole community is suffering in the absence of a Gurjar Chief Minister. You are putting our backs to the door. We are saying get it done now - get up and smell the coffee...do it," Mr Bainsla told NDTV.
"We are not holding anyone to ransom but how long are we going to wait? Why are we moving towards a clash or a confrontation? You are taking people's wishes and aspirations for a ride," said the Gurjar leader. He added that the conversation "needed to go to Rahul Gandhi, who seems to have no idea of what is happening".
Mr Bainsla's threat is a manifestation of the Congress's bigger crisis - the tension between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot that threatens not just to embarrass Rahul Gandhi during his Bharat Jodo Yatra but also damage the party as it preps for the Rajasthan election next year.
Recently, Sachin Pilot, in an open challenge to Chief Minister, said the Congress must punish Ashok Gehlot loyalists who had defied the party in September.
Mr Pilot lost his shot at the Chief Minister's job when Mr Gehlot, asked by the Gandhis to run for Congress president, refused to give up his Rajasthan post. More than 90 MLAs loyal to him threatened to quit, forcing the Congress to turn to a new candidate, Mallikarjun Kharge.
The BJP has already mocked Rahul Gandhi's campaign saying he should take out a "Congress Jodo (Unite Congress) yatra" first.
The party, which had hoped for a detente in Rajasthan at least for Rahul Gandhi's sake, faces disruptions as the yatra cuts through Gurjar-dominated regions of Rajasthan.