JAIPUR, May 9 (PTI): In a no-holds-barred attack on Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, his former deputy Sachin Pilot on Tuesday said the recent speech by the Congress veteran indicated that his real leader is BJP’s Vasundhara Raje Scindia and not his own party’s Sonia Gandhi.
Pilot also announced a five day, 125-km ‘Jan Sangharsh Yatra’ from May 11 over “corruption” and cases of leaking of papers for state government recruitment exams.
The move is being seen as a sign that the dissident Congress leader will continue to pile pressure on Gehlot and the party’s central leadership as the year-end assembly elections approach.
Pilot held a one-day fast last month in Jaipur over “inaction” by own party’s government on alleged corruption during the previous BJP tenure in the state.
On Sunday, Gehlot said he survived the 2020 revolt by some Congress MLAs against his government as BJP leaders Vasundhara Raje and Kailash Meghwal refused to support a conspiracy to topple an elected government through money power.
Pilot rejected the charge that the dissidents – whom he had led — took any money from the BJP. The younger leader also reminded that he is the one asking Gehlot to probe charges of “corruption” during Raje’s tenure as the Rajasthan chief minister.
He pointed at the “contradiction” in what Gehlot is claiming — that the BJP had conspired to topple his government and at the same time Raje helped save it. “This is a contradiction and it should explain exactly what you want to say exactly,” he said.
“After listening to the CM’s speech in Dholpur, it appears that his leader is not Sonia Gandhi, his leader is Vasundhara Raje Scindia,” he told reporters.
Pilot said it is wrong to make allegations against leaders from one’s own party. “It is condemnable. I deny false and baseless allegations,” he said.
The Congress leader said if there was any evidence, action should have already been taken by the CM.
“There is no point in making such accusations. Even after being abused, I did not break the party discipline and am not breaking it even today. It is easy to accuse, but it is difficult to answer the public,” he said.
The MLAs against whom the CM made the charges were senior leaders who have been in public life for over 30 years, Pilot said. As examples, he named Hemaram Chaudhary and Brijendra Ola, who are now part of the Gehlot ministry.
Pilot said he had been writing letters for a year and half demanding an investigation into corruption during Raje’s tenure.
“It is clear from the CM’s speech in Dholpur on why no action is being taken, and why it won’t happen,” he said, in an apparent reference to Gehlot mentioning Raje’s “help”.
Pilot said the planned yatra from Ajmer, where the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) is headquartered, is not against anyone. “This is on the issue of corruption, this is for the youth who are disappointed due to repeated paper leak cases,” he said.
He referred to the boycott in September of a Congress Legislature Party meeting by a majority of the state Congress MLAs, in an apparent show of strength for Gehlot.
The pro-Gehlot MLAs, apprehending that the CLP meeting was meant to install Pilot as the new chief minister, had then reportedly submitted their resignations.
Pilot called the episode an “insult” to Sonia Gandhi, saying the meeting had been called on her directions. This was the real “indiscipline” and “betrayal”, he said.
People will raise questions “if you insult her”, he said.
Pilot, who was also the Pradesh Congress Committee chief then, and 18 other Congress MLAs had revolted against Gehlot in July 2020, seeking a change of leadership.
The month-long crisis ended with the intervention of the party high command.
Pilot was removed as the deputy chief minister and the state Congress president. The All India Congress Committee (AICC) also set up a panel to examine the rebels’ concerns.
Pilot said he and the other MLAs worked hard to strengthen the party after the committee was formed.
He seemed to draw a parallel between the chief minister’s claim about BJP “support” for the 2020 rebellion and the resignations in September.
“Many people allege that the resignations were made at the behest of (Narendra) Modi and (Amit) Shah. If I say such things from this platform now, would it be above me?” he said.
Pilot said he has been called ‘corona’, ‘gaddar’ (traitor) and ‘nikamma’ (worthless), but the sequence of events reveals who “strengthened” and who is “weakening” the party.
He said some people want to weaken the Congress party and indulge in “character assassination”, but that would not be allowed to happen.