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As Gehlot Tries to Eject Pilot from State Politics, Can Congress Help Him Fly Out of Desert Storm?

File photo of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot with former deputy CM Sachin Pilot.

File photo of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot with former deputy CM Sachin Pilot.

Having got the upper hand thus far, Gehlot was unusually harsh and aggressive on Pilot on Wednesday even as there were reports of Congress leadership in Delhi attempting to reach out to Pilot camping in Gurgaon with his MLAs.

The denouement in the desert storm that hit Rajasthan earlier this week may depend on Congress high command’s ability to chart a role for Sachin Pilot as Ashok Gehlot ups the ante to squeeze the rebel leader out of state politics.

Having got the upper hand thus far, Gehlot was unusually harsh and aggressive on Pilot on Wednesday even as there were reports of Congress leadership in Delhi attempting to reach out to Pilot camping in Gurgaon with his MLAs.

Gehlot ended his long winding diatribe against Pilot with a golden quote: “Sone ki chhuri pet mein khane ki liye nahin hoti (You never use a golden knife to cut your own stomach)”. Without naming Pilot, Rajasthan CM accused his former deputy of conspiring to destabilise the government.

Pilot has already been stripped of the dual charge of deputy CM and Pradesh Congress president. A new PCC chief has been appointed. All other key organisational heads seen to be Pilot loyalists have been replaced to plug possibility of status quo ante in the organisation.

A repproachment now can be struck through a return in the state government or by an appointment as AICC office bearer.

Pilot seems to have responded positively from feelers from the Congress as papers quoted him that he was not joining the BJP; and the "BJP link was a bid to align me in the eyes of the Gandhis".

Gehlot’s strident and aggressive stand on Wednesday is being seen as an attempt by the Rajasthan CM to narrow down possibilities of Pilot’s rehabilitation — in state politics at least.

Central observers sent to Jaipur on multiple occasions have tried to send feelers to the rebel group and its leader to take the first step towards detante by publicly reiterating their loyalty to the party.

On the other hand, the chief whip of the party in state assembly, Mahesh Joshi, moved speaker CP Joshi for the disqualification of the rebel MLAs. Message to the Pilot camp is clear: return or risk losing your membership of the house. Tactically, this serves twin purpose — any depletion in rebel ranks weakens their ability to bargain a return and a reduction in the house strength brings down the majority mark in the house.

Pilot’s ability to bargain in this stand-off has also been debilitated by BJP’s stoic in-difference to the standoff.

Congress high command on the contrary is said to be making efforts to keep a window ajar for Pilot’s return. This could also be seen as part of the attempt to dispel notions which surfaced during Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit when a section in the party felt the leadership did not do enough to retain talent in the party.

first published:July 16, 2020, 12:54 IST