A day after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot huddled at least 100 MLAs in a resort in a show of strength, the party has called another meeting at 10 am on Tuesday (July 14) and invited rebel leader Sachin Pilot to iron out differences and woo him and other MLAs back to the fold.
Quoting sources, PTI said, former party president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are among the senior leaders who have been in touch with Pilot.
The second meeting of the Congress Legislature Party was announced several hours after the first one ended on Monday (July 13) afternoon, skipped by Pilot and 18 other party MLAs.
Hours after Gehlot’s meeting with MLAs on Monday, the Sachin Pilot-led camp released a 10-second video showing at least 16 MLAs sitting together in a close circle. Pilot is not seen in the video. Six other people can be seen in the video but they could not be identified. Some of the MLAs seen in the video are Indraraj Gurjar, Mukesh Bhakar and Harish Meena. Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh tweeted the video with the caption “Family”.
— Vishvendra Singh Bharatpur (@vishvendrabtp) July 13, 2020
Ladnun MLA Mukesh Bhakar tweeted, “…Loyalty in Congress means Ashok Gehlot’s slavery. That is not acceptable to us.”
The Congress on Monday had issued a whip, asking all 107 Congress MLAs to be present at Monday’s meeting at the chief minister’s house. In addition, 15 others independents and from allies — were invited. Party leaders said 106 of these 122 MLAs attended, a claim contested by the Pilot camp. The meeting expressed support for the Gehlot government, adopting a resolution urging strong disciplinary action against any party office-bearer or CLP member who does anything to weaken the government or the party. But it stopped short of naming Pilot, who also heads the party’s state unit.
Before the meeting, AICC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also adopted a conciliatory tone, saying Pilot and other MLAs could still attend it. “Doors are open for Sachin Pilot and other MLAs. They will be heard and solutions found. This is the discipline of the party,” he said. Apart from Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, former Union finance minister P Chidambaram and AICC general secretary K C Venugopal are learned to have spoken with Pilot.
As the CLP meeting ended, MLAs sat in waiting buses which took them to Fairmont hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur. Hours later, Surjewala announced the CLP will meet again at 10 am on Tuesday at the hotel, a move seen as another attempt by the party to get the dissidents back into the fold. We request Sachin Pilot and all other MLAs to come, he told reporters, adding that they will also be asked in writing.
“They are requested to come and discuss how we can strengthen Rajasthan together and serve the state’s eight crore people,” he said. He said their problems will be solved. “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are ready to listen to everyone and find solutions.”
Pilot has been upset since he was denied the Rajasthan chief minister’s post after the December 2018 assembly elections. On Sunday, he claimed to have the backing of 30 Congress MLAs and “some independents”.
Those close to him disputed Gehlot’s claim that his government had a majority. Sources close to him have also ruled out the possibility of Pilot joining the BJP. In the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly, the Congress has 107 MLAs and the BJP 72. When it formed the government in 2018, the Congress has claimed the support of 13 independents, two MLAs each from the CPM and the Bharatiya Tribal Party, and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
(With inputs from agencies)