After Gandhis Meet Sachin Pilot, Changes In Rajasthan Cabinet: Sources

The discussion between Sachin Pilot and the Gandhis in Delhi comes days after the Congress settled its affairs in neighbouring Punjab

The Gandhis may consider making Sachin Pilot Congress in-charge of Gujarat

New Delhi:

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met with Rajasthan leader Sachin Pilot this evening, fuelling intense speculation days after a leadership change in Punjab. This is Sachin Pilot's second meeting in less than a week with the Gandhis, who reportedly want him to take charge of Gujarat ahead of elections in the state next year. The Rajasthan cabinet will be expanded to include several loyalists of Mr Pilot, sources said after the 45-minute meeting.

Mr Pilot remains focused on Rajasthan, say sources, and extracting an assurance of being made Chief Minister. Today's meeting is seen as an attempt by the Gandhis to defer a leadership change in Rajasthan, where party veteran Ashok Gehlot, 70, is Chief Minister.

The discussions between Mr Pilot and the Gandhis in Delhi comes days after the Congress tackled a drawn out feud in neighbouring Punjab - where elections are also due early next year - by appointing a new chief minister.

Soon after Captain Amarinder Singh was replaced as Chief Minister in Punjab, just four months before polls, some reports talked about the Congress attempting similar moves in the two other states it rules, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Whether Mr Pilot, 44, has agreed to manage the Congress's Gujarat campaign is not known; however, he has not given up on his ambitions in Rajasthan after his revolt last year, when he spent days in Delhi with a group of rebels, insisting on a better role in the state.

Mr Pilot has been waiting to see his loyalists inducted into the Rajasthan cabinet, and this demand has been partly fulfilled now with the cabinet expansion.

Mr Gehlot has been under pressure for a while to go for a cabinet expansion to accommodate Mr Pilot's loyalists. So far the Chief Minister has resisted making the changes that his party leadership had promised to Mr Pilot, who was Deputy Chief Minister till June last year when he was forced to resign.

Mr Gehlot - already a two-time Chief Minister by 2018 - was made the Chief Minister again after the Congress won the assembly election that year. But it was not an easy decision for the party as Mr Pilot was also eyeing the top post. The younger Congress leader is credited with rebuilding the party after its washout in the 2013 state election.

Last year, Mr Pilot supported by 18 Congress MLAs ended a month-long revolt against Mr Gehlot only after a meeting with the Gandhis, who apparently assured him that their grievances would be heard by a three-member committee that includes Priyanka Gandhi.