Former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot on Wednesday raised eyebrows over Prime Minister Narendra Modi “praise” for Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and also nudged his party to end the “state of indecision” over the chief minister's post.
He also pushed for action by the party against Rajasthan leaders who led a show of strength for Gehlot in September, boycotting a Congress Legislature Party meeting.
His remarks on the “interesting development” that he said should not be taken lightly signal the resumption of the tussle within the party's state unit -- briefly on hold while the Congress presidential election was on.
Pilot, who led a rebellion in 2020 against Gehlot, targeted the veteran leader by referring to Tuesday's event at Mangarh Dham in Banswara district, where Gehlot shared the dais with Modi.
The leaders there paid tribute to the tribal people killed in an uprising against the British in 1913.
“The PM praised the chief minister and this is an interesting development because the prime minister had praised Ghulam Nabi Azad in the same manner in the House in Parliament. And we all have seen what circumstances were created after that,” he told reporters at his home.
The reference was to Azad quitting the Congress and later forming his own party.
“So it is an interesting development that the PM has praised the CM, and it should not be taken lightly,” he said.
Indirectly, the former Rajasthan Congress chief also called for action by the All India Congress Committee against the Rajasthan Congress leaders involved in holding a show of strength for Gehlot in September.
Gehlot supporters wanted him or a loyalist to continue as chief minister, amid the possibility that he would be elevated to the post of the party's national president and Pilot could take his place in Rajasthan.
The CM's supporters boycotted the CLP meeting, where the MLAs were expected to pass a one-line resolution giving the party high command the right to pick the next CM.
Pilot said only 13 months were left now for the assembly elections and the AICC would soon take any decision it needs to take, like calling another CLP.
He also suggested the party will soon act against those who were given notices by the AICC for the indiscipline in September.
He recalled that AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal had said then that a decision will be taken soon on Rajasthan, a reference to the chief minister's post.
“The time has come to end the state of indecision in Rajasthan and action will take place soon,” Pilot said.
Recalling the crisis that erupted in September, Pilot said the CM had himself apologised to then party president Sonia Gandhi when the CLP meeting could not take place.
"Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge who came as observers also took it seriously,” he added.
“The AICC considered it a matter of indiscipline and issued notices to three people,” he reminded.
He said the three state leaders have now replied to the notices.
“I believe that the Congress is an old and disciplined party and rules and the party discipline are applicable to all, no matter how big an individual may be,” he said.
Pilot said it cannot happen that the party considers a development as indiscipline, issues notices and seeks replies but no decision is taken. "I believe the decision will be taken soon.”
Instead of attending the CLP meeting, MLAs loyal to Gehlot had held a parallel meeting at the home of Rajasthan parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal and then reportedly handed over their resignations to assembly Speaker CP Joshi.
The AICC had issued notices to Dhariwal, Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation chairman Dharmendra Rathore.
When asked about the possibility of any changes in the state, the Congress leader said that it is for the party to give anyone any position or responsibility.
In his speech during the Mangarh event on Tuesday, PM Modi had called Gehlot the senior-most chief minister in the fraternity of CMs when he was himself the Gujarat CM.
Modi said he was one of the senior-most chief ministers even today.
Pilot said the prime minister was expected to declare Mangarh Dham as the national monument but this did not happen perhaps because a Congress government is there in the state.
Modi also did not declare Rajasthan's Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP) a national project despite a “commitment” given earlier, he added.