While Ashok Gehlot continues to further push Sachin Pilot to the point of no return, the Congress on Wednesday has yet again said its doors are open for him.
- Last Updated: July 15, 2020, 11:49 PM IST
The Congress has left a door ajar for Sachin Pilot to return, at the behest of Rahul Gandhi. On a day when Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot mounted a scathing attack on his former deputy, the party continued its appeal to him of “returning to the family”.
Pilot’s exit was being seen as a loss of a young talent who has been nurtured by the party. Parallels are also being drawn with the ouster of his former colleague Jyotiratidtya Scindia, who belonged to the same Team RaGa. The party received ample criticism for “not doing enough to retain young talent” during the Scindia episode. Perhaps another reason why the Congress is making an attempt to create a perception that it tried its best to save Pilot from flying off.
While Gehlot continues to further push Pilot to the point of no return, the Congress on Wednesday has yet again said its doors are open for him.
Yet another attempt was made to reach out to Pilot because Gandhi is very keen on not letting him go, sources said.
“We have been told by Rahul Gandhi to give Pilot a long rope,” said a senior leader. Since the announcement to sack him as deputy chief minister and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, a leader from the party has still been in touch with Pilot, sources said.
“Family can return home anytime,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala at a press briefing in Jaipur. “If one has an issue with anyone, it should be resolved within the family.”
Surjewala also referred to Pilot as a ‘yuva’ (youth) and ‘honhar’ (talented) leader.
Wednesday’s press conference was in contrast to an earlier briefing by Gehlot where he aimed daggers at Pilot. “Speaking good English, giving good bytes and being handsome isn’t everything,” he told the media in Jaipur.
Gehlot said the “former Pradesh Congress Committee president” was himself “doing the deal”.
“We have the proof that horse trading was being committed. Money was offered. And who gave the clarification that nothing was happening? Those who were themselves part of the conspiracy are giving clarifications,” he said.
“Our deputy chief minister and PCC president himself was doing the deal and was giving statements that no horse trading was taking place. What clarifications are you giving when you yourself were involved in it,” Gehlot added.
After this, the briefing by Surjewala appears to be damage control in order to keep a window open for Pilot’s return.
“If Sachin Pilot and MLAs do not want to go with the BJP, then please refuse the Haryana government’s hospitality and return home. He should come out and publicly say he’s with the Congress party,” Surjewala said.
“Rahul Gandhi is very fond of Pilot. Which other leader would be given so much leeway after such actions? After saying that your own elected government is a minority government? Any political party would take stern disciplinary action. But we’ve been told to give him a long rope,” a senior leader in the party said.
“The ball is now in Sachin Pilot’s court. He and other rebel MLAs have to respond by 17th July to the motives issued by the speaker,” he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gandhi’s comments at an NSUI event, saying “whoever wants to leave, can leave” were seen as a jibe at Pilot. But the NSUI issued a clarification saying no such political statement was made and Gandhi only spoke about youth issues. This was a damage control move made to ensure that Gandhi’s statement is not read in the context of Pilot because the party is still hopeful of his return.
The state cabinet reshuffle is also on hold since efforts are still being made to get the rebels MLAs back.
“The process of portfolio distribution hasn’t begun because there’s still a door that’s left open for Pilot and others to return,” said another senior leader.
Meanwhile, Pilot told News18 that he has no plans of joining the BJP. “Those who are spreading this are the ones who want to portray me wrongly before the Gandhis,” he said.
Sources close to Pilot reiterated they are still with the Congress.
“We are with the Congress, we have neither resigned nor have we been sacked. We just want our dignity to be restored,” an influential leader in Rajasthan politics, who is in Pilot’s camp, told News18.
Efforts are also being made by the Gehlot camp to bring back rebel MLAs who wish to return. Three MLAs are already set to return to Jaipur and more are likely after the notice issued by the Speaker threatening disqualification, a source in the Gehlot camp said.