Three days after the Congress declared an end to its Rajasthan government crisis, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will meet Sachin Pilot, who revolted against him. The bitter rivals are expected to come face-to-face at a Congress Legislature Party meeting scheduled for today, a day before the special session of the Rajasthan assembly.
Sachin Pilot returned to Jaipur on Tuesday, ending his month-long rebellion after a meeting with Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who reassured him that his grievances would be addressed. But he arrived to a cold reception from Mr Gehlot, who chose to fly to Jaisalmer, where he had put up 100-odd MLAs to guard his flock for a possible trust vote on Friday.
Mr Gehlot said Congress MLAs are "naturally upset" about the truce but everyone has to move on. "Forget and forgive," he declared while meticulously avoiding any chance of a "reunion" photo-op with Mr Pilot.
"It is natural for the MLAs to be upset. The manner in which this episode occurred and the way in which they stayed for a month, it was natural. I've explained to them that sometimes we need to be tolerant if we have to serve the nation, state, people and save the democracy," the Chief Minister told reporters.
"We have to forgive mistakes and be united for the sake of democracy. More than 100 MLAs stood by me. That in itself is remarkable."
The MLAs on Team Gehlot returned to Jaipur on Wednesday and were driven straight to Fairmont, the same resort they had stayed in during the rebel crisis. They are likely to stay there till the Friday session, a sign that Mr Gehlot is not dropping his guard.
The state government is yet to spell out whether there will be a floor test as Mr Gehlot had originally planned, but it is clear that the Chief Minister will want to establish his majority on the very first day.
The unresolved bitterness between the Congress's Rajasthan top two seeped through in their remarks to the media yesterday. Mr Pilot, who was sacked as Mr Gehlot's deputy and publicly excoriated by him, admitted that he was hurt at being called "nikamma (useless)".
"Some unparliamentary and inappropriate terms were used. Not to say that I was not offended, I am human. I did feel hurt and disappointed, but we have larger mission and name-calling should not be a deterrent," he said.
Mr Gehlot said if the party leadership had decided to forgive the rebel MLAs, he would "give them a warm hug". But he avoided questions on how he would re-embrace a man he had dubbed "nikamma" and corrupt.
Many Congress MLAs openly resented the way Mr Pilot and 18 more rebels were allowed back in without reparation. "We stood by the party so we feel hurt. You can't buy milk and water at the same rate," grumbled Prashant Bairwa, an MLA.