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'They want to throw Pilot out of the Congress'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
Last updated on: July 18, 2020 11:41 IST
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'Nobody understands Gehlot's politics.'
'The Congress high command should wake up.'

IMAGE: Sachin Pilot had claimed he had the support of 30 MLAs and the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan was now in a minority. Photograph: ANI Photo

Sacked as Rajasthan's tourism minister earlier this week, Vishvendra Singh maintains that Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has not been in touch with Sachin Pilot who raised a banner of revolt against the Ashok Gehlot government, but adds a twist to the tale by stating that senior Congressmen are in touch with him.

Singh and senior Congress MLA Bhanvarlal Sharma were suspended by the Congress party for allegedly hobnobbing with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to bring down the 17-month old Gehlot government.

"I won't like to name names, but they are senior enough people; some have been very close friends also," Singh tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about the Congress leaders trying to bring about a rapprochement with the Pilot camp.

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The Congress has suspended you from the primary membership of the party. The allegation against you and Bhanvarlal Sharma is that you were involved in horsetrading to topple the Gehlot government. How do you react to this charge?

I have no reaction to offer. I have done nothing wrong. I have done no anti-party activity.

If they want to take a unilateral decision without clarifying with me, it's up to them to take the decision. They are taking the decision on their own without even talking to us. What can I say about this?

The Gehlot government has charged you with indulging in horsetrading with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's help...

The charge is utterly baseless. I have not spoken to Gajendra Shekhawat. Definitely not.

The audio tape is false and a ploy to fabricate and malign us.

There's another interesting thing I must tell you. There's another audio tape involving Sports Minister Mr Ashok Chandna and he is trying to clear his name by saying that anybody can make such an audio tape.

He is saying that anybody can make anybody's video. If a minister can say that, then that applies to this alleged audio tape also.

If you have done no anti-party activity, then why is the Gehlot government attacking you and Sachin Pilot so viciously?

They want to throw Mr Pilot out of the Congress. He has been attacking Mr Pilot all the time.

Why is Ashok Gehlot doing it?

I really have no idea, but everybody knows there was some kind of a rift between them.

While they have suspended you and Bhanvarlal Sharma for anti-party activities, no such action has been taken against Sachin Pilot yet. What explains this?

No, they haven't taken any action against Mr Pilot yet.

Is Congress then keeping the doors open for Sachin Pilot to come back home along with his rebel MLAs?

They keep saying this (that the doors are open for Pilot) -- and I have been watching TV for the last three-four days. Nobody has approached Mr Pilot yet.

Isn't Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in talks with Pilot?

I don't think so.

But many TV channels are airing this story that Priyanka, after speaking with Pilot, told him that she would speak with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi about it.

I don't like to lie. I am telling you that she hasn't spoken with Mr Pilot based on my knowledge.

In the Pilot vs Gehlot fight, why are you being targeted?

It is just one of those things. Nobody understands Mr Gehlot's politics.

But I am wondering aloud about my status now that I have been suspended from the primary membership of the Congress party.

So, what's our status now? Do we become independent MLAs or what?

Are we now free to vote wherever we want, or are we still bound by the Congress?

What do you think about it? What will you be doing about it?

You see expulsion from the primary membership of the party automatically makes... it is not me who is leaving the party; you have got thrown me out. So then they have the issue open.

Are you then going to plead your case with the Congress high command or Gehlot?

What for?

When he's already done the thing (suspended us) and the party has taken a suo moto decision without even listening to me.

Does that indicate that the Congress's doors have been closed to you and Bhanvarlal Sharma?

No, they have been sending overtures. That is also there.

Who's sending you overtures?

I won't like to name names, but they are senior enough people; some have been very close friends also.

The point is you are too late.

You humiliate a person on the national scene to throw him out of the party and then you try and call the guy back.

What does that mean? Would you do that?

If you say you have not done anything wrong or indulged in anti-party activity, would you be ready to give your voice samples to the Rajasthan police's Special Operations Group?

My name is not in the FIR. There is no FIR against me.

But there is this alleged tape about you talking to Union Minister Gajendra Shekhawat about money changing hands.

There is no such thing in any of the two FIRs that they have filed.

The point though is I am not guilty and I have no problem in giving my voice samples to any investigation agency, but at my convenience.

I am out of town at the moment. I am out of Rajasthan at the moment.

Are you in Haryana?

Let's say I am in Delhi.

You are saying you are in Delhi?

No. I am with my sister; she is not well.

See, I am very, very, clear.

If your employer throws you out of your job without hearing you out for no reason and without talking to you. Why should you be thrown out? You have at least the right to ask him why you are being thrown out. What anti-party activity have I done?

Shouldn't you ask this to Gehlot: What wrong have you done?

Why should I ask him? Why? He has done what he wanted.

Despite all this bitterness, as you said overtures have been sent to you and by some senior Congressmen?

I am just giving you my side of the story. This is ridiculous (the way they are treating us).

I won in the last assembly (in 2013 when the Bharatiya Janata Party swept the assembly election in Rajasthan). There were only 21 Congress MLAs and I was one of them. Mr Ramesh Meena was one of them. He has been dropped as a minister.

Why has the Congress not suspended Ramesh Meena's or Sachin Pilot's primary membership? Is the Congress playing games?

I don't know.

Would you have any message for the Congress high command?

They should wake up. They should wake up and listen to their own people (Pilot), the workers and the people like us who have been elected even against heavy odds like last time (2013).

Do you think because of the goings on in Rajasthan Congress the BJP is sensing a comeback?

I am not an astrologer and it is for the (Rajasthan) high court to decide.

As far as we are concerned, we will stick to our stand that we have done nothing wrong.

Hasn't this bickering in the Congress given the BJP strength?

We worked so hard to dislodge the BJP in 2018 and now this is what is happening.

Doesn't this bickering within the Congress helping the BJP?

Yes, it is.

Would you agree with Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MP Hanuman Beniwal's contention that Gehlot and the BJP's Vasundhara Raje are hand in glove?

I wouldn't like to comment on that because there's no proof of that. But, there are views. They are close (to each other).

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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