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HomePoliticsDecision on Pilot-Gehlot stalemate will be taken after Bharat Jodo: Rajasthan Congress...

Decision on Pilot-Gehlot stalemate will be taken after Bharat Jodo: Rajasthan Congress in-charge

Nobody will get away with breaking party discipline, says Sukhjinder Randhawa, as Sachin Pilot continues on solo campaign across state, attacks Gehlot government on range of issues.

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New Delhi: With Sachin Pilot hitting the roads in what’s being seen as another attempt to pressure the Congress high command for a change of guard in Rajasthan, the party’s state in-charge, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, has said that any decision will be taken after the completion of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra on 30 January.

On Pilot’s rallies across Rajasthan, Randhawa told ThePrint that his “campaign” was working in the Congress’s favour but that “nobody would be allowed to break discipline”.

He also said that tickets for the state assembly election, due later this year, would be distributed solely on the basis of winnability, and “nobody, whether he is a minister or an MLA, should take theirs for granted”.

Pilot, a former deputy chief minister of the state as well as former Rajasthan Congress chief, has been locked in a power tussle with chief minister Ashok Gehlot for quite some time, with the state Congress unit ridden by factionalism.

Pilot has for the last few days been touring various parts of Rajasthan, addressing rallies of farmers and the youth, and criticising the state’s Congress government on a range of issues, such as recruitment exam papers being leaked.

Starting his travels on 16 January, Pilot has held meetings with farmers in Bikaner and Hanumangarh and also made pit-stops in Bagru, Padasoli, and Dudu, where he met Congress workers.

The meetings are pumping up pressure on the Congress leadership to take a call on a change of guard in the state — something that was kept on hold, according to party sources, so that the Bharat Jodo Yatra could traverse Rajasthan controversy-free. Party leaders had made it clear in December that the Congress would prefer status quo for the time being.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra left Rajasthan around 20 December, and less than a month later, Pilot has hit the road, with the yatra’s photo-op of Rahul Gandhi walking flanked by Pilot and Gehlot a distant memory.

Speaking to ThePrint, MLA Prakash Singh Solanki, who is a Pilot loyalist, said: “He (Pilot) is the voice of the youth and farmers and he has gone to them to talk about the promises he had made during the elections five years ago that are yet to be kept. Then there are issues such as unemployment and paper leaks.”

“The high command is taking time to listen to our demands so we have gone to the people to whom we are answerable,” he added.

ThePrint reached out to Pilot with queries over the telephone and WhatsApp. This article will be updated when a response is received.

Also read: Punjab managed, Congress turns to Rajasthan to resolve Sachin Pilot-Ashok Gehlot row

‘1 per cent chance of winning’

Cranking up pressure on the All India Congress Committee (AICC), Pilot told the media Tuesday that action against MLAs who had “rebelled” in September was still pending, as was a decision on a change of leadership.

The reference was to the planned change in chief-ministership in the state last September, when Gehlot was set to fight elections to the post of Congress president.

A Congress Legislative Party meeting — called to pick the next chief minister, widely expected to be Pilot — was boycotted by 90 MLAs loyal to the CM, who instead met at state minister Shanti Dhariwal’s residence instead to stall any move to replace Gehlot with Pilot.

Solanki, when asked if a former deputy chief minister (Pilot) critiquing his own government would not cost the Congress the upcoming assembly elections, said: “The damage was done to the Congress when people (MLAs) rebelled against the high command, submitted resignations. A negative message has already gone out to Congress workers. Whatever 1 per cent chance the Congress has of winning the elections is only if they make Pilot the face (of the party in the state). People are saying that is the only way they will vote for the Congress.”

‘Tickets only on winnability’

The target of Pilot’s attacks may be the state government but there is little doubt that the party’s leadership in Delhi, too, is feeling the heat.

Senior AICC functionaries remained tight-lipped about which way the pendulum would swing. “It is difficult to say,” said a senior Congress leader.

When ThePrint reached out to Randhawa, he said: “See, this is an election year and we cannot stop anybody from campaigning. Right now, the Bharat Jodo Yatra is in Punjab and we are all busy with that. On the 30th (January), there will be the (concluding) event in Srinagar and we are all headed there. Once this is done, we will sit down and discuss the issue. As for his (Pilot’s) meetings, whatever I have seen so far is favouring the Congress. But I can assure you that nobody will get away with breaking party discipline.”

Randhawa was appointed Rajasthan in-charge last month following the resignation of Ajay Maken in the wake of the “rebellion” by MLAs.

He asserted: “I want to make one thing very clear. We will distribute tickets only on the basis of winnability. There will be no quota system. So, no person whether he is in the government or in the assembly should think that they will automatically get tickets.”

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: After ‘Pilot’ plot twist, will Gehlot fight Congress prez polls at all? Leaders no longer sure

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