Sachin Pilot, who dropped his rebellion after a meeting on Monday with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, returned to Rajasthan today, a month after he broke ranks with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. He arrived in state capital Jaipur when Ashok Gehlot was be around 600 KM away, in Jaisalmer.
Betraying lingering bitterness and an uneasy truce, the Chief Minister and his former deputy may not meet at all before the special session of the Rajasthan assembly on Friday, say sources.
Sachin Pilot drove to Jaipur in a low-key homecoming without any grand welcome or stops in between. Sources say he also advised the rebel MLAs returning with him to keep a low profile.
Mr Pilot’s return to the fold was enabled by the Gandhis agreeing to address his grievances, chief among them being Ashok Gehlot’s style of functioning. Acting unusually quickly, the Congress announced a panel of three including Priyanka Gandhi and it met with 19 rebel MLAs the same evening to hear their complaints.
Report suggest the rebels, who have been individually meeting Mr Gehlot since yesterday, are looking to gain ministerial jobs.
But Mr Pilot may not get back the two posts that Mr Gehlot had sacked him from – Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Congress chief. He may be accommodated in the central Congress. “I harbour no wish for a post,” he told reporters in Delhi.
Sources say Chief Minister Gehlot, who, unlike the party’s measured criticism, had gone all out against his sacked deputy, is upset about the truce and deliberately stayed away, choosing to be in Jaisalmer with the 100-odd resentful Congress MLAs who stayed with him throughout the crisis.
“How can I forget MLAs who stayed with me through this time? They will always be in my heart,” Mr Gehlot said before flying to Jailsalmer, where he had sequestered Congress MLAs in anticipation of a test of strength in the special assembly session on Friday.
The MLAs are feeling “let down and disillusioned”, say sources, and senior Congress leaders have been trying to calm them down.
Mr Gehlot has decided to stay overnight in Jaisalmer. He has also called a meeting of Congress MLAs at 7.30 PM.
On Sunday night, the MLAs said at a meeting that the rebels should be punished for their “betrayal” and should not be allowed back.
Congress sources say when he learnt of the reconciliation moves, Mr Gehlot approached the party leadership. But he was reportedly advised to fall in line, given the Gandhis’ keenness to keep Mr Pilot in the party and prevent a repeat of its disaster in Madhya Pradesh, where Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit brought down the Congress government.
It will, however, be difficult for Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot to put the episode behind them and work together again.
In the past month, Mr Gehlot has openly attacked Mr Pilot, accusing him of deal-making with the BJP to pull down his government. He also labelled the 42-year-old leader as “nikamma” (useless) and derided him as a politician who influenced the media with only looks and good English.
Mr Gehlot avoided questions on his “nikamma” dig today. Mr Pilot, however, said: “I never crossed the lakshman rekha. I have imbibed certain values from my family. No matter how much I oppose anyone, I’ve never used such language.”