Congress's Sachin Pilot has brushed off Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's sharp attack on him as "false and unfounded allegations" that were completely "unnecessary". Mr Gehlot, he hinted, will do better to focus on Gujarat, which is practically days away from the state elections. Mr Gehlot is the party in-charge of the state.
"Ashok Gehlot called me 'incompetent', 'traitor' and made lots of allegations. These allegations are completely false, unfounded and unnecessary," Mr Pilot told news agency ANI.
The need of the hour, he said, is to strengthen the Congress party. "We have to see how we can make Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra a success because that's what the country needs," said Mr Pilot, who flew down to Madhya Pradesh today to join the foot-march.
"Only Congress can challenge the BJP in the country. Elections are underway in Gujarat, where Ashok Gehlot is in-charge. We have to put up a united fight to defeat the BJP," he added.
He also mentioned the election in Rajasthan, due next year. "We formed government twice in Rajasthan under the leadership of Ashok Gehlot. But then we lost both elections… Despite that, when the party high command wanted him to head the government, we accepted it. This time our focus should be on winning the coming election, he said.
"Under the circumstances, it does not look well for a leader of his seniority to talk about such issues," he added.
Mr Gehlot, in an exclusive interview to NDTV today, had launched a no-holds-barred attack on Mr Pilot, accusing him of being a "traitor" to the party.
"A gaddar (traitor) cannot be Chief Minister… the High Command cannot make Sachin Pilot the Chief Minister... a man who doesn't have 10 MLAs, revolted. He betrayed the party, (he) is a traitor," Mr Gehlot said, referring to the 2020 episode when Mr Pilot had camped out in Delhi for days with his loyalist MLAs.
"It must be a first for India that a party president tried to bring down his own government," he said, alleging that the revolt was "funded by the BJP" and backed by senior BJP leaders including its chief strategist Amit Shah.
He even indicated that the Mr Pilot was responsible for the political chaos in Rajasthan, including the rebellion by Gehlot loyalists which publicly embarrassed the party and the Gandhis.
Mr Pilot has not apologised to the party, the state or the people, Mr Gehlot said, which made him unacceptable to the state MLAs as a candidate for the Chief Minister's post.
"Had he apologised, I would not have to," he added, referring to his apology to party chief Sonia Gandhi after the revolt by his loyalists during the election for the party chief's post.