Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot called Sachin Pilot a “gaddar” (traitor) on Thursday, saying he cannot replace him because he revolted against the Congress in 2020 and attempted to destabilize his own government.
The remarks have widened divisions within the Congress party in Rajasthan, where Assembly elections are scheduled for next year.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, will also visit the state. Pilot, who walked alongside Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, did not respond to Gehlot’s remarks. Gehlot also claimed that Union Home Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Amit Shah was involved in Pilot’s rebellion, when some Congress MLAs loyal to him were holed up in a Gurugram resort for more than a month and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited them frequently, claiming that he has proof that each of those legislators, including Pilot, was paid Rs 10 crore.
The veteran leader also stated that the Congress can replace him with any of its 102 MLAs in Rajasthan, except Pilot, if the top leadership believes the party’s prospects will improve in next year’s Assembly elections.
“The MLAs will never accept someone who has revolted and has been dubbed a gaddar.” How can he become the chief minister? How can the MLAs accept such a person as the chief minister? I have proof that Rs 10 crore each were distributed to the MLAs holed up in a Gurugram resort for toppling the Congress government in Rajasthan,” Gehlot said.
He said that one will never find an example where a party president “tries to topple his own government”.
Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Punia, on the other hand, has denied the charge that the saffron party paid Congress legislators to defect in 2020. Things would have been different, according to Gehlot, if Pilot had apologized to the MLAs and won them over.
“He has yet to apologize.” “If he had apologized, I would not have had to apologise,” the chief minister said, referring to his apology to former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi after more than 90 MLAs close to him blocked a Congress Legislature Party meeting.
When asked if Pilot could still replace him if the high command decides to do so, Gehlot responded that it is a hypothetical question. “How is that going to happen?” “That’s not going to happen,” he said. He said that a recent meeting of party MLAs following their refusal to allow the CLP meeting to take place was not a rebellion, but rather a “revolt against Pilot who attempted to topple his own government.”
Since the Congress won the elections in Rajasthan in 2018, Gehlot and Pilot have been at odds over the position of the chief minister. Gehlot has said that Pilot’s 2020 rebellion cannot be disregarded and that he does not have the support of the majority of Congress MLAs, but the Pilot camp contends that the lawmakers want a change in the leadership.
A possible leadership change has been discussed within the Rajasthan Congress, but there is also opposition from another group. Gehlot has been saying that the 90 MLAs who had saved the government during Pilot’s rebellion are loyal to the party high-command and not to him.