Sachin Pilot has in the latest instalment of his rivalry with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that Congress MLAs in Rajasthan who revolted against the party must be punished. In what appears to be a new bid for his taking over as Chief Minister, he has said, “It's time now to end the climate of indecision in Rajasthan.”
The state is due to vote in 13 months, Sachin Pilot said, adding that party observer KC Venugopal had said a decision on "the Rajasthan situation" will be taken soon.
In a swipe directly at Mr Gehlot, he said it's "dilchasp", or interesting, how Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Mr Gehlot as a "senior chief minister" at a government function in Rajasthan yesterday. "That (praise) should not be taken lightly. Everyone knows what happened after the PM praised Ghulam Nabi Azad," he said. Mr Azad left the party recently.
"Observers took the situation in Rajasthan seriously. The party has said it was indiscipline. Three MLAs got notices. There should now be action," he told reporters while campaigning in Himachal Pradesh. "Congress is an old party with the same rules for everyone, no matter how senior. I'm sure the new president, Mallikarjun Kharge, will decide soon."
Mr Pilot also noted that Mr Gehlot had apologised to then party chief Sonia Gandhi for the defiance his loyalists showed against moving him to the national stage.
Both Mr Pilot and Mr Gehlot are guilty of acting against the party line.
In July 2020, Mr Pilot tried to force a promotion from Deputy Chief Minister by sequestering about 20 MLAs in a resort near Delhi. The message was that unless he were given Mr Gehlot's job, he would break the party. However, his exercise fizzled out because of the modest support he received.
Mr Gehlot was able to easily prove that he remained the popular choice of MLAs.
Then, just weeks ago, Mr Gehlot flexed his own political muscle to prove to the Congress that he must not be replaced as Chief Minister.
That possibility came about because Sonia Gandhi urged the 71-year-old to replace her as Congress President. Mr Gehlot suggested a dual role — Chief Minister plus Congress President — provoking a public reproach from Rahul Gandhi who cited the party's 'one person, one post' rule.
In response, when the Congress organised a meeting of MLAs in Rajasthan to assess whether a new Chief Minister was needed, Mr Gehlot's supporters were a no-show, choosing instead to meet separately at a session where they insisted that Mr Gehlot should have veto rights on his replacement, and that Mr Pilot must be declared out of the running.
Mrs Gandhi met with Mr Gehlot a few days later — the delayed meeting was intended to convey the displeasure of the “high command” — and he apologised profusely for the actions of his loyalists.
At the time, Mr Pilot was reportedly assured that his time may have finally come.
But there's been no action yet against Mr Gehlot's team and apparently no progress in the plans to give Mr Pilot a shot at running the home state.
When the Congress won Rajasthan in 2018, Mr Pilot was told by the Gandhis that he would time-share the Chief Minister's job with Mr Gehlot, as his senior, getting the first half of the five-year term. When Mr Pilot's revolt failed, he was penalised by being removed as Deputy Chief Minister and as the president of the party's Rajasthan unit.