Sachin Pilot was "aggrieved" at being sacked as Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and state party chief just three hours after a conversation with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sources close to him said today.
Sachin Pilot spoke to Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday, the sources said. This was among the many reach-outs by the Gandhis after the 42-year-old launched his revolt on Sunday against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. But these efforts at reconciliation have not stopped the Congress in Rajasthan from taking action against Mr Pilot and other rebel MLAs.
Mr Pilot "spoke to Priyanka Gandhi two days ago and was given a patient hearing", said the sources. When he discussed his grievances, Priyanka Gandhi said "she would speak to Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi". Three hours later, the sources said, he was sacked from his Rajasthan posts.
"How can the Congress talk of rapprochement when it is acting against me?" Mr Pilot reportedly said. He is "not sure if he can trust Congress assurances anymore," said sources.
"On one hand, the Congress talks of 'doors open' and on the other hand I am sacked and disqualification notice sent. I am attacked by Ashok Gehlot," sources quoted the furious leader as saying.
Priyanka Gandhi reportedly phoned Mr Pilot on Wednesday as well. Yesterday, the rebel spoke to senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram, who said he had advised him to "seize the opportunity" after the leadership publicly invited him for a meeting.
A section of the Congress believes Mr Pilot went "too far" by taking the party to court yesterday along with 18 rebel MLAs. Team Pilot has challenged disqualification notices which ask them to explain why they defied party orders to attend meetings.
Sources close to Mr Pilot questioned how he could attend the MLAs' meets at the Chief Minister's house when he was aggrieved.
"Core grievances with Gehlot first needed to be addressed," they said, adding that the Chief Minister "had gone rogue" and the Congress could no longer control him.
Mr Gehlot has repeatedly accused Mr Pilot of conspiring with the BJP to bring down his government.
This morning, the Congress alleged that a Union Minister and two rebel MLAs were caught on tape making deals and plotting to dislodge the Ashok Gehlot government. Two FIRs were filed shortly after the Congress read out transcripts of the audio, which emerged online yesterday.
Mr Pilot's camp said he has "not heard the sting tapes" and called the tapes part of the Chief Minister's strategy to justify moves to disqualify the rebels. If the rebels are disqualified, the majority mark in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly will go down, giving Mr Gehlot an advantage.
Mr Gehlot may be in for huge trouble if a few more MLAs join the 20-strong rebel camp. The BJP has 73 MLAs and needs around 30 more to claim power.
Team Pilot underscored once again today that there was "no question" of Mr Pilot joining the BJP. "Rajasthan is my karmabhoomi, my work is here," Mr Pilot was quoted by the sources as saying, a reference to Congress leaders in Delhi suggesting a national role for him.
"It is unclear what role the Congress can offer outside Rajasthan," said sources close to Mr Pilot.