Smiles, Handshake As Sachin Pilot, Ashok Gehlot Meet After Congress Truce

The meeting to plan for the special session of the Rajasthan assembly from tomorrow has assumed even more significance after the opposition BJP announced that it will move a no-confidence motion.

Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot smile, shake hands at Congress Legislature Party meeting

Jaipur:

Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot shook hands today and smiled for the cameras as they met for the first time since their public clash that brought the Congress government in Rajasthan to the verge of collapse. Sachin Pilot was invited to the Rajasthan Chief Minister's home for a meeting of Congress MLAs, his first after his reconciliation with the party leadership and "homecoming" after a month-long revolt.

Mr Gehlot had posted on Twitter this morning that he was all for "forget and forgive" and moving on "for the sake of saving democracy".

The two leaders, both in masks, sat together at the meeting, only a slight stiffness in their body language betraying the awkwardness of the reunion.

The meeting, held to plan for the special session of the Rajasthan assembly from tomorrow, became even more significant after the opposition BJP announced that it will move a no-confidence motion. Mr Gehlot has said that his government will move a trust vote to prove its majority.

A week ago, the BJP's move would have been a threat to Mr Gehlot, who had 102 MLAs at the time - just one more than the majority mark in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly. The BJP has the support of 75 MLAs and needs 30 more to defeat Mr Gehlot.

That was before Mr Pilot and 18 rebels returned to Jaipur on Tuesday after ending the rebellion. A truce was announced on Monday after Mr Pilot met with Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who reassured him that his grievances would be addressed.

Mr Gehlot, who was keen on proving his majority, continues to guard 100-odd MLAs that have been staying at hotels since Mr Pilot's revolt.

Though the Chief Minister has 125 MLAs on his side now, he pointedly said at the meeting that he would have won the trust vote even without the rebels.

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"What happened, let us put it behind us. We would have proved our majority even without these 19 MLAs, but that would not have given us any happiness. Kyonki apne toh apne hi hote hain (family is family)," Mr Gehlot said.

The Chief Minister's remarks betrayed that he is not happy at the rebels' return. His tweets made it clear that despite his reluctance, he was ready to fall in with the wishes of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who had been keen on retaining Mr Pilot at all costs.

"The Congress's fight is to save democracy under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. In the past one month, whatever internal discord happened within the Congress party, we have to, for the state, for the country and for the people for Rajasthan, move on with the spirit of forget-and-forgive," Mr Gehlot tweeted in Hindi.

The Chief Minister's unfiltered attacks on Mr Pilot over the past few weeks had thwarted many attempts at a patch-up. In his most controversial remarks, Mr Gehlot called his former deputy "nikamma, naakara (useless)", corrupt and "all about good looks and smooth-talking".

Mr Gehlot also said he had not spoken to Mr Pilot in the last 18 months.

On Tuesday, Mr Gehlot left Jaipur before Mr Pilot arrived and chose to fly to Jaisalmer, where he had sequestered his MLAs for the Friday test of strength.

Mr Gehlot said Congress MLAs are "naturally upset" about the truce but everyone had to accept it in the interest of democracy. The MLAs on Team Gehlot returned to Jaipur on Wednesday and were driven straight to Fairmont, the resort they had stayed in during the rebel crisis.