Jaipur: The Congress Wednesday made a last-ditch effort to reach out to rebel leader Sachin Pilot with party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asking him to “stop discussions with the BJP, and return as a family member” to Jaipur.
Party sources said this was done at the behest of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who doesn’t want Pilot to leave the party.
Pilot is at present staying at a hotel in BJP-ruled Haryana.
“We heard a statement from Pilot that he’s not joining the BJP. If you don’t want to go to the BJP, then don’t accept their hospitality in Manesar hotels. Come out of (Haryana CM) M.L. Khattar’s security net in Haryana. Come home to Rajasthan and talk directly, (but) not through the media. Come back as a family member to Jaipur,” Surjewala said while interacting with reporters outside Fairmont hotel in Jaipur.
Surjewala added Pilot should come out and say that he is still with the Congress.
According to sources, the last-minute effort was made on the directions of Gandhi.
“Rahul Gandhi ji is very fond of Sachin Pilot and, over a period of time, has entrusted him with several responsibilities. No other leader would have been given so much freedom after such actions, but a door is still being left open so that he can think and decide,” a senior Congress leader told ThePrint.
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Sources further said the lack of clarity on whether Pilot will return to the party or join the BJP is what is delaying the cabinet reshuffle exercise too.
Barely an hour before Surjewala’s press conference, which had a conciliatory approach, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, without taking Pilot’s name, said “some from the younger generation like to be involved in horse trading”.
Following this, sources said, Gandhi stepped in and asked Surjewala to hold a press conference.
“This is our last attempt at reaching out to Pilot made at the behest of Rahul Gandhi. We are leaving the door open because Rahul Gandhi is keen on not letting him go. Now the ball is in Sachin Pilot’s court. Despite all the indiscipline, we want him to stay with the party and the action that was taken was only because he refused to attend the CLP (Congress Legislature Party) meeting and raise his concerns on a party forum,” said the senior Congress leader.
Have proof of horse trading: Gehlot
Meanwhile, Gehlot in an interaction with reporters said: “Horse trading was being done in Jaipur, we have the proof. We had to keep people at a hotel for 10 days, if we had not done that, the same thing that is happening in Manesar now, would have happened back then.
“We have love and support for our younger generation… but these young leaders have not struggled like us… they never had to struggle to get to various posts in the party. Some from the younger generation like to be involved in horse-trading,” he said.
On Tuesday, 19 “rebel” MLAs, including Pilot, were served notices by Speaker C.P. Joshi, asking them to respond by Friday on a petition filed by the chief whip of Congress.
The party Tuesday had also sacked Pilot and two Rajasthan cabinet ministers from their posts.
Pilot was a yuva, honhaar neta: Surjewala
At the press conference, Surjewala called Pilot a “yuva, honhaar neta” (young and able leader), who was given several responsibilities by the Congress at a very young age.
“From being an MP to cabinet minister then Pradesh Congress Committee chief, despite losing elections, and recently state deputy chief minister, Sachin Pilot has only been encouraged by the party at all levels. There is hardly anyone in Congress or in BJP who have been given so many opportunities,” Surjewala told reporters.
A second party leader, however, told ThePrint that the press conference was called by the party in Jaipur to “expose the hollow claims of Pilot not being in touch with BJP”.
“He is busy making statements that he is not going with the BJP, then why are the MLAs in the hotel? He needs to clarify a lot of things,” said the leader.
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