New Delhi: “He is a gaddar (traitor),” Rajasthan’s Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said of his former deputy and adversary Sachin Pilot Thursday, uncloaking once again the kind of bare-fanged acrimony that has come to characterise the party’s top leadership in the state.
In a scathing interview to NDTV, Gehlot said a “gaddar” could never be the chief minister – a reference to Pilot’s ambition for the chair.
The party veteran also seemed to caution the Congress high-command for its affinity towards the young leader, saying in the interview: “The high-command cannot make Sachin Pilot the chief minister… a man who doesn’t have 10 MLAs… who revolted. He betrayed the party, (he) is a traitor.”
Referring to Pilot’s revolt in 2020, Gehlot said: “It must be a first for India that a party president tried to bring down his own government. He was funded by the BJP.” Pilot was the state’s Congress chief at that time.
Pilot had been deputy CM for two years in 2020, when he spirited away 19 MLAs to a five star hotel in Haryana, ostensibly to engineer a wave in his favour.
Gehlot had said at that time that Pilot met BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.
Pilot was bested by the veteran who held his own show of strength, immediately displaying the open support of 100 MLAs. Defeated, Pilot reconciled with the chief minister and the high-command. He was also stripped of the deputy CM’s post.
Gehlot reiterated in the interview Thursday that Amit Shah and Dharmendra Pradhan were behind Pilot’s sudden revolt in 2020. “They (Pilot included) had a meeting in Delhi,” he said, adding that Pilot’s MLAs were given money.
“Some got Rs 5 crore, some Rs 10 crore. In fact, the money was picked up from the BJP office in Delhi,” Gehlot said.
About the 25 September fiasco – when Gehlot loyalists staged a little revolt of their own and boycotted an official meeting – the chief minister blamed Pilot for floating the rumour that he would be the state’s next CM. This upset the MLAs, Gehlot said.
Gehlot emphasised that the state’s MLAs were never loyal to him, but to the high-command.
To refresh the reader’s memory, a Congress Legislative Party meeting was called on 25 September in Jaipur, which Gehlot loyalists saw as an occasion to announce Sachin Pilot as the next CM. This, because Gehlot by that time was the high-command’s choice for the party president and would have had to vacate the CM-ship of Rajasthan under the party’s “one man, one post” rule.
Gehlot MLAs boycotted the meeting and held a parallel one at Minister Shanti Dhariwal’s home. All this happened while senior leaders Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge, who were sent from Delhi as observers, were kept waiting at the CM’s residence. Gehlot’s MLAs even threatened to resign if Pilot was named CM.
Later, Gehlot apologised to then interim party president Sonia Gandhi, and said the meeting was called to pass a one-line resolution, authorising the Congress president to choose the next CM. He also pulled out of the race for Congress president later.
Talking about the incident, Gehlot emphasised that the MLAs who boycotted were not loyal to the chief minister, but to the high-command.
Pointing out that he was not present at this parallel meeting, Gehlot blamed Pilot for floating the theory that he was becoming CM.
He told the interviewer: “A rumour was spread that Sachin Pilot would be made chief minister. He himself spread this. People thought he was going to be chief minister. This upset the MLAs because how can Pilot be chief minister after once trying to bring down his own government?
He also refuted the fact that there was a “half-and-half” agreement between him and Pilot over the chief minister’s seat – 2.5 years each in rotation.
“The question does not arise! But if he (Pilot) still says this, then ask Rahul Gandhi,” Gehlot said. He also harped on his loyalty to the Gandhis. “Whatever I have is because of them,” he said.
After the interview aired, Sachin Pilot wondered “who was advising Gehlot to put out false and baseless allegations against me”.
“He is a senior and experienced leader,” Pilot said, adding, “Today, we need to strengthen the party. Rahul Gandhi is on a Bharat Jodo Yatra and we need to jointly make the yatra successful.”
The young leader joined the Congress’ outreach walk Thursday in Madhya Pradesh, and was seen shoulder to shoulder with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Pilot also said the only party that could challenge the BJP was the Congress. “We need to challenge the BJP in all ruling states. BJP was poorly defeated when I was the party president (in Rajasthan). Still, the (then) Congress president gave Gehlot another chance to become the CM. The priority today should be on how we can win the Rajasthan elections again,” Pilot added.
Meanwhile, Congress general secretary in-charge for Communications, Jairam Ramesh, said: “Shri Ashok Gehlot is a senior and experienced political leader. Whatever differences he has expressed with his younger colleague Sachin Pilot will be resolved in a manner that strengthens the Congress party. Right now, it is the duty of each and every Congressman and Congresswoman to make the already hugely successful Bharat Jodo Yatra even more impactful in north Indian states.”
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