NEW DELHI, Nov 29: In a demonstration of “unity” amidst sharp differences between the two rivals, the Congress on Tuesday presented the Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot on one platform to claim that the two were together to lead the party in the next elections due in about a year’s time.
The occasion was preparations for Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo Yatra” entering Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh on December 4. Speaking to reporters in Jaipur, the feuding leaders stood next to each other and stressed that Gandhi’s Yatra, which enters Rajasthan on December 4, would be a big success in the state.”The party is supreme for us. We want the party to forge ahead and regain its glory,” Gehlot said.
AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, who was in Jaipur to oversee the preparations for welcoming the Yatra in Rajasthan, the only Congress ruling state on the route of the Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, accompanied Gehlot and Pilot during the press conference. He said: “We are united. Here Ashok Ji and Sachin Pilot Ji have said the Congress party in Rajasthan is united. Rahul Gandhi has clearly stated that both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are assets to the party.”
Amid the political turmoil in Rajasthan, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had recently said that both Gehlot and Pilot were “assets” to the party. Gehlot said on Tuesday that if Rahul Gandhi has said so, both leaders must indeed be assets.
“When Rahul Gandhi ji has said – he is the leader of all of us – when Rahul Gandhi ji has said asset hain, toh phir asset hain (that we are assets, then we are assets indeed). So why is there a need for discussion? Our party’s biggest virtue, before independence and post-independence, has been that the party functions under the number one leader’s discipline. The party functions under the discipline of the Congress president. So there is nothing left to say after he has spoken.
“There is an atmosphere of tension in the country and it is a huge challenge. But the success of the yatra shows that people fully support the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi,” Gehlot added.
Sachin Pilot said the Bharat Jodo Yatra with Rahul Gandhi “will be welcomed with maximum enthusiasm and energy in Rajasthan.” The Gehlot-Pilot joint appearance was imperative for the Congress, which is struggling with bad blood between its two top leaders in Rajasthan just before Rahul Gandhi begins his 12-day tour of the state.
The detente came through at a meeting of the rivals and Gandhis’ trusted aide KC Venugopal when the party looked to be sharply divided between the two leaders after Gehlot called Pilot a “traitor” who allegedly took the help of the BJP to overthrow his own party government in the state when he was the Rajasthan Congress unit president besides being his deputy.
To Gehlot’s outbursts that “A gaddar (traitor) cannot be Chief Minister. The High Command can make anyone from the 102 Congress legislators the chief minister but not Pilot,” Pilot had condemned his accusations as “unbecoming” of a senior leader to use such words at a time the Congress needed to project a united front.
The free-for-all stunned the Congress, which clarified that “the party needs both leaders” – the experienced Ashok Gehlot and the “young and energetic” Sachin Pilot. The party also said the dispute would be resolved with the party’s best interests in mind. On Monday, Rahul Gandhi rejected that the “traitor” row would impact his yatra. “It will not affect the yatra and both the leaders are assets to the Congress party,” he said in Indore.