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Pilot vs Gehlot reignites in Rajasthan over graft cases

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Hemant Waje
April 10, 2023 09:48 IST
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Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Sunday alleged that the Ashok Gehlot-led government failed to investigate cases of alleged corruption during the Bharatiya Janata Party rule in Rajasthan and announced a day-long fast to press for action, in a sign of escalating tussle in the party's state unit ahead of assembly polls.

IMAGE: Congress leader Sachin Pilot addresses a press conference at his residence, in Jaipur on April 9, 2023. Photograph: PTI Photo

Without referring to Pilot's demand, the Congress issued a statement in Delhi that its government with Ashok Gehlot as chief minister has implemented schemes that have benefited people and the party will seek a renewed mandate later this year "on the strength of these landmark achievements and the collective efforts of our organisation".

All India Congress Committee in-charge of state Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said it was "not appropriate" for Pilot to hold a press conference in this manner and that he should have raised the issue with him first.

The move by former deputy chief minister Pilot to open the new front against Gehlot amid the factional fighting is seen as an attempt to pressure the high command to resolve the leadership issue ahead of the year-end polls.

"No action was taken (by the Gehlot government) on the corruption by the previous Vasundhara Raje government. While in the Opposition, we promised an inquiry into the mines scam of Rs 45,000 crore,” Pilot said at a press conference at his residence here, announcing a hunger strike on Tuesday.


He said he wrote to Gehlot last year on March 28 and November 2 on the issue but did not get any answer to his letters.

“With six seven months left for the elections, the opponents can spread an illusion that there is some collusion. Therefore, action will have to be taken soon so that the Congress workers feel that there is no difference between our words and actions,” he said.

He also showed videos of statements of Gehlot in the assembly and outside in which he had levelled corruption allegations against the previous BJP government.

He said he will observe a day-long fast at Shaheed Smarak on April 11, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule who was from the Saini community to which Gehlot belongs.

Gehlot and Pilot have been at loggerheads over the post of the chief minister ever since the Congress formed the government in Rajasthan in December 2018.

The opposition BJP said that Pilot should also demand an investigation into the alleged corruption during the Congress government's tenure.

Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore said in a statement that the infighting between the chief minister and his former deputy has increased to such an extent that now Pilot will sit on hunger strike against his own government.

While a section of Congress leaders supported Pilot's demand, others claimed it would inflict great harm to the party in the upcoming election, particularly when it is working on a strategy to repeat its government in the state.

In a statement, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the Congress government in Rajasthan with Ashok Gehlot as CM has implemented a large number of schemes and taken many new initiatives that have impacted the people profoundly.

"This has given the state a leadership position in governance in our country. The Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan was an outstanding success made possible by the dedication and determination of the party organisation in the state," he said.

"Later in the year, the Congress will seek a renewed mandate from the people on the strength of these landmark achievements and the collective efforts of our organisation," Ramesh said.

Randhawa, who was made AICC in-charge of Rajasthan last December, said he had had more than 20 meetings with Pilot since taking over but the former deputy chief minister had not raised the corruption issue with him.

"We have talked about various issues but he did not raise this issue, and then going straight to the press...saying that we are not acting on corruption...," Randhawa told PTI.

"We have acted against Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, he has even filed for defamation against the CM. The second thing is that what we have done in Rajasthan, steps like waiving loans of farmers, on electricity bills, subsidy on cylinders, bringing back old pension scheme, he (Pilot) should have talked about that and then added that now we have to take action against corruption," the AICC in-charge of state said.

"But this was not appropriate," he added.

Randhawa said he would go to Jaipur on Tuesday and talk to both Pilot and Gehlot about the issue.

In July 2020, Pilot and a section of party MLAs rebelled openly, demanding a leadership change in the state. It led to a one-month-long political crisis that ended after assurance by the party high command to look into the issues raised by Pilot.

The former deputy chief minister said Congress leader Sonia Gandhi had given him the responsibility of the party in the state and he, along with other leaders, had opposed the wrong policies of the then BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje.

He said the Congress as a responsible Opposition had raised the issue of corruption because of which the BJP was voted out of power.

He said the state government has a “zero tolerance” policy for corruption and to further strengthen it, transparent and effective action should have been taken.

"Now six-seven months are left for the election, the opponents can spread confusion that there is some collusion," Pilot said.

He said that he never called for any malicious action but the credibility that the Congress had built as the opposition party has to be maintained.

“Ashok Gehlot and I had made allegations together. How will we know it is true until there is a fair investigation. If it comes out in the investigation that no one was guilty, we will accept that Gehlot ji and I were liars.

"But until a case is registered, how will people believe that the allegations made by us are true or false,” Pilot said.

He said that it was one of the suggestions he had given to the party high command.

Pilot has been often, though in a subtle manner, demanding the party leadership to take action on issues raised by him.

Following the revolt by Pilot and 18 other MLAs in 2020, Gehlot used terms like “Gaddar”, “Nakara”, “Nikamma” for his former deputy and accused him of being involved with the BJP leaders in a conspiracy to topple the Congress government.

A few days before Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra entered Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh, Gehlot had again targeted Pilot, calling him “Gaddar” in an interview with a news channel in November last year.

Pilot responded to it, saying it was not his upbringing to use such language.

Pilot's demand to order a probe and take action in the alleged mining scam during the previous BJP government and other corruption allegations was supported by state cabinet minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas.

Khachariyawas was the Jaipur Congress president when Pilot was the PCC chief and used to be at the forefront with him in raising the corruption issue. He was in the Pilot camp but during Pilot's revolt against Gehlot in 2020, Khachariyawas switched to the Gehlot camp.

He said whatever Pilot has pointed out is right, and action against corruption should be taken.

"Sachin Pilot is an asset for the party and Rahul Gandhi has said this... I would also speak to the chief minister and say that we should take action," Khachariyawas said.

Another Congress leader said Pilot's announcement was also a “kind of revolt” against Gehlot and this would certainly harm the party.

“At a time when the Congress government is leaving no stone unturned to retain power in the upcoming elections, Pilot's announcement to sit on 'Anshan' will definitely send a wrong message among the masses. This should be avoided,” the Congress leader said.

Pilot supporters said issues raised by the leader before the party high command have not been addressed so far, which has left him disappointed.

They said that the party workers wanted Pilot to be the chief minister.

“Pilot had a major contribution in bringing Congress to power in 2018. As the PCC chief, he worked hard to revive the party and because of him, the party got a majority of seats in eastern Rajasthan but he was not given the rightful share in the government,” a Pilot supporter claimed.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Hemant Waje© Copyright 2023 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.