Sachin Pilot will work in the "interest of the Congress" and a three-member committee will be set up to address the grievances expressed by him and other aggrieved MLAs, the Congress said on Monday after a meeting between the rebel leader and former party chief Rahul Gandhi. This signalled an "amicable resolution" of nearly a month-long Rajasthan crisis ahead of the crucial assembly session from August 14.
The meeting between Rahul Gandhi and Pilot at the former party chief's residence, where Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also present, lasted two hours during which they had a "frank, open and conclusive" discussion.
While the Congress did not give details of what transpired in the Rahul-Pilot meeting, AICC general secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal said in a statement that following the meeting, Sonia Gandhi has decided that the AICC will constitute a three-member committee to "address the issues raised by Pilot and the aggrieved MLAs and arrive at an appropriate resolution thereof".
"Shri Sachin Pilot has committed to working in the interest of the Congress party and the Congress government in Rajasthan," it added.
On his part, Pilot said, "We raised issues of principles before the Congress leadership, and welcome their assurance of a time-bound redressal of our grievances."
Asserting that he doesn't crave for any post and that the party can take back the position given to him, Pilot said,"Some personal remarks have been made against me. I feel there is no place for personal mudslinging in politics," in an apparent reference to Gehlot's "nikamma" remarks against him.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, "The political crisis in Rajasthan Congress stands resolved amicably by the intervention of none other than Rahul Gandhi himself. This is reflective of steadfast unity in Congress party and the commitment of Congress legislators to never fall prey to BJP's evil designs to defeat democracy."
However, Congress sources ruled out that Ashok Gehlot will be replaced as Rajasthan chief minister or Pilot will be reinstated as party's Rajasthan chief, a post which was filled immediately after the Congress sacked Pilot following his open revolt against Gehlot last month.
Meanwhile, rebel Congress MLAs started returning from Haryana to Jaipur. Bhanwar Lal Sharma, one of the MLAs, met Gehlot, and said there are no camps in the Congress and the party stood united. Sharma is facing a case of alleged involvment in horse trading of Congress lawmakers in a bid to topple the Gehlot government.
AICC sources said all rebel MLAs will return ahead of the August 14 assembly session, and asserted that the Gehlot government was safe.
Once all dissidents return, the Congress will have a total strength of 107 MLAs in the 200-member state Assembly where the simple majority is 101. The Congress also has the support of a number of independent MLAs. BJP has 72 MLAs.
Congress leaders also claimed that with this reproachment, "BJP's conspiracy" to break the party has been dashed and the Congress leadership has not yielded to demands of removal of Gehlot as chief minister.
A Congress leader said this is one of the "best fightbacks by the Congress" in saving its government and thwarting BJP's attempts to topple its government. He alleged that BJP's efforts to bring in Pilot met with a revolt within the BJP by its former CM Vasundhara Raje, and the party had to lodge its MLAs in different locations.
Meanwhile, party sources said a formula for Pilot's return was being worked out. They said among the options, one possible agreement discussed during the Monday meeting was favourable voting by Pilot and MLAs loyal to him in case of a trust vote during the upcoming Rajasthan assembly session.
Pilot and 18 other MLAs had rebelled against Chief Minister Gehlot in Rajasthan, leading to Pilot's sacking as deputy chief minister and state party chief. Sources add that some of the rebel MLAs have also been in touch with the Congress leadership in the last few days.
Pilot and other rebel MLAs would have faced disqualification in case they defied the Congress whip on the floor of the house. Party leaders had held discussions with Congress MLAs lodged in Jaisalmer and had sought their views on the rebel party legislators on whether to accept them or not.
Meanwhile, after a rapprochement between the Congress and Pilot, the BJP is weighing its options and working to put up a united face against the Ashok Gehlot government ahead of the assembly session from August 14.
BJP legislative party leader Gulab Chand Kataria claimed even a unity in the Congress ranks can only be temporary and the government is "bound to disintegrate sooner than later". A meeting of BJP MLAs has been called on Tuesday, he said.