Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Tuesday sat here on a fast, piling pressure on his own party by targeting the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan for inaction in alleged cases of corruption when the BJP ran the state.
The former deputy chief minister began the dharna at the Martyrs Memorial here, ignoring warnings by the Congress central leadership that the move just months ahead of the assembly polls is anti-party activity.
CM Gehlot and Pilot have been at loggerheads since the Congress formed the government in the state in December 2018.
Pilot offered flowers at the portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and social reformer Jyotirao Phule before starting his silent protest around 11 am. This struggle against corruption will continue, Pilot told reporters while leaving the venue at 4 pm as scheduled.
He sat alone on the dais for five hours, against the backdrop of a large banner that described the event as a fast against corruption during the term of BJPs Vasundhara Raje — “Vasundhara Sarkar Me Hue Bhrashtachar ke Viruddh Anshan”. The song “Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye” played in the background.
His supporters sat behind or below the platform.
No ruling party minister or MLA showed up as they were asked by Pilot to keep away. But several other leaders, including former MLAs Santosh Saharan and Ramnarayan Gurjar were present.
The Pilot faction apparently did not want to make it a headcount of MLAs with him versus those with Gehlot in the divided Rajasthan Congress. Also, this would have put the pro-Pilot MLAs at a greater risk of action by the party leadership.
Gehlot did not made any direct remark on Pilots move after the younger leader announced the agitation on Sunday.
But On Tuesday morning, as his former deputy began the dharna, the CM released a video expounding his own vision for the state. “I have decided that I have to make Rajasthan the top state by 2030, he said.
To realise this dream, in the last four budgets and this years Bachat, Rahat and Badhat budget, I have made schemes no other state has,” he added in the clip, which could be interpreted as an indication that the veteran politician sees himself as his partys CM candidate in the next election as well.
Pilots fast was an apparent attempt to stall this in the run-up to the polls. But the Congress leadership appeared to have thrown its weight behind Gehlot, at least for now.
“If there is any issue with his own government, it can be discussed at party forums instead of the media and in public,” Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Rajasthan in-charge at the All India Congress Committee (AICC), had said in a statement Monday night.
“This is clearly anti-party activity. I am in touch with him and I still appeal for dialogue since he is an indisputable asset to the Congress,” he added.
Rajasthan Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singhs son Anirudh Singh, who recently targeted Rahul Gandhi for his remarks in UK, was present at the dharna site. Several workers from Pilots constituency Tonk and areas in eastern Rajasthan also came.
As the fast ended, Pilot said the Congress had assured people that its government will take effective action over corruption during the term of the previous BJP government.
I wanted the Congress government to take action against the corruption of the former government, he told reporters. This struggle against corruption will continue.
The Gehlot-Pilot tussle began during the formation of the Congress government in December 2018. Both were keen on the chief ministers post.
But the party high command picked Gehlot for the top post in the state for a third time and Pilot was made his deputy.
In July 2020, Pilot and a section of Congress MLAs rebelled openly against Gehlot, demanding a change of leadership in the state. Pilot was stripped then of the posts of deputy chief minister and Pradesh Congress Committee president.
The month-long crisis ended after the partys central leaderships assurance to look into the issues Pilot raised.
Gehlot later used terms like “gaddar” (traitor), “nakara” (failure) and “nikamma” (worthless) for Pilot, and accused him of being involved with BJP leaders in a conspiracy to topple the Congress government.
Last September, MLAs in the Gehlot camp boycotted a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and held a parallel meeting to stall what they felt was an attempt to make Pilot the new chief minister.
Gehlot was then being considered for the party presidents post. SDA AG RC IJT ASHASH
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)