Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Wednesday (February 15) flagged an “inordinate delay” by the leadership in taking action against those who “defied” then president Sonia Gandhi by not letting a legislature party meeting take place, and said the decision on the party’s affairs in Rajasthan must be taken soon if the trend of alternate governments has to be bucked.
Referring to the show cause notices issued more than four months ago to three loyalists of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for holding a parallel gathering to the CLP meeting, Pilot said the AICC disciplinary committee under A K Antony, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and the leadership can best answer as to why there has been an “unprecedented delay” in a decision on the matter.
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“The legislative party meeting was called on September 25 by the chief minister (Ashok Gehlot) in Jaipur; that meeting did not take place. Central observers Ajay Maken and Kharge were there. Whatever would have happened in the meeting is a separate issue, agreement or disagreement, but the meeting was not allowed to take place,” Pilot told PTI.
“The people who were responsible for not having that meeting and having a parallel gathering, were served notices of “prima facie indiscipline”, the former deputy chief minister said.
“I am told through the media that they have replied to those notices. So far, there has been no decision or action taken by the AICC (All India Congress Committee). I think the disciplinary committee under Antony and the Congress president and leadership can best answer as to why there has been such a long delay in a decision,” Pilot said.
It may be pointed out that an affidavit was filed in the Rajasthan High Court by the speaker which said that there were 81 resignations received, with few given to him personally, Pilot said.
According to the affidavit filed by the speaker in the High Court, out of the total resignations some of them were photocopies and the rest were not accepted because they were not given “out of their free will”, he said.
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And that was the reason on the basis of which the speaker rejected these resignations, he added.
“Since the resignations were rejected because they were not given under free will. And If they were not given under free will then under whose pressure were they given? Was there a threat, allurement or pressure… So perhaps that is a matter of further investigations by the party,” Pilot asserted.
“We are heading towards an election very soon, the budget has also been presented, and the party leadership has said many times that it would take a decision on how to move forward. Whatever decisions have to be taken about the Congress party in Rajasthan, should be taken as we are looking at polls at the end of the year,” Pilot said.
He underlined that this was important if the Congress had to break this cycle of alternate governments of the Congress and the BJP in the state which has been happening for the last 25 years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is campaigning aggressively, and the Congress needs to hit the ground running and galvanise workers so that “we are battle ready”, he said.
“It was under the direction of the then Congress president Sonia Gandhiji that the CLP meeting was called so this was open defiance and non-compliance of the party directive,” Pilot said.
“Discipline and the party line are the same for everybody who or she he may be… It does not matter if you are big or small, discipline is paramount and that is what (AICC in-charge Rajasthan) Sukhjinder Randhawa had been asserting,” Pilot said.
“People who defied the party at that time in September, so many months have gone by, Congress workers are asking that this inordinate delay, what does this signify, the party should take a call and that Antony, Kharge and the party leadership should look into it,” he reiterated his stand.
At that time in September, Maken had failed to convene a meeting of MLAs to pass a one-line resolution to authorise the Congress president to appoint a new leader in Rajasthan.
Gehlot had apologised publicly later for failing to get the resolution passed and opted out of the race for the Congress president after meeting then-party chief Sonia Gandhi.
The party had issued showcause notices to MLAs Dharmendra Rathore, Shanti Dhariwal and Mahesh Joshi, who is the chief whip of the party in the assembly. The party has not taken any action on the notices though the MLAs have responded to the charges against them.
Maken had subsequently resigned in November and Randhawa was given the charge of Rajasthan.
In a letter to party president Kharge on November 8, Maken cited the developments of September 25 and asked the party chief to appoint someone in his place.
A major row erupted in December again following Gehlot’s comments that Pilot is a gaddar (traitor) and cannot replace him.
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The remarks drew a sharp response from Pilot who had said it was unbecoming of Gehlot’s stature to use that kind of language and that such “mud-slinging” would not help at a time the focus should be on the Kanyakumari-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The escalation of the Gehlot-Pilot rift just ahead of the entry of yatra into the desert state had put the party in a spot but K C Venugopal’s visit to the state calmed tempers and in a show of unity both Pilot and Gehlot posed for the cameras along with the AICC general secretary.
In January, the Rajasthan Assembly secretary had told the high court that the 81 MLAs who had submitted resignation letters to Rajasthan Assembly speaker CP Joshi during the last September crisis had withdrawn them.
The Rajasthan High Court was informed in reply to a writ petition that the resignations given to the assembly speaker on September 25 were not voluntary and have been withdrawn.
The power tussle between Gehlot and Pilot that seemed to have thawed briefly during the Bharat Jodo Yatra has resumed within days of the march crossing the state with the two leaders sparring again.
Pilot announcing a series of public outreach events in the state last month was seen by many as a show of strength and a reminder to the high command that his grievances remain unaddressed.
In his remarks at several rallies, Pilot had cornered the Gehlot government over issues such as the repeated paper leaks and political appointments of retired bureaucrats while sidelining party workers.
(With Agency reports)