A day after a group of Congress MLAs met Sachin Pilot, another party legislator on Friday expressed support for the dissident leader as trouble brewed again in Rajasthan's ruling party. Pilot, however, brushed aside speculation that he is switching to the BJP, like Jitin Prasada who quit the Congress two days back.
In Dausa, Todabhim MLA P R Meena said the party's central leadership should address the issues raised by Pilot, who led a rebellion last year against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. An All India Congress Committee (AICC) panel formed then to sort out differences between Gehlot and the Pilot camp is yet to come up with a solution.
Also during the day, Congress MLA Hemaram Choudhary, who sent his resignation to the Assembly Speaker recently, met Pilot at his Jaipur home. Like Meena, he is considered a part of the Pilot faction in the state Congress. Pilot, who was sacked as the deputy chief minister and the state's Congress chief after his rebellion, dismissed suggestions that he is headed for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
He rejected a claim made on a television show by BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi that she had spoken to him about the possibility. Rita Bahuguna Joshi said she spoke to Sachin. She might have spoken to Sachin Tendulkar (the cricketer). She doesn't have the courage to speak to me, the Congress leader told reporters in Jaipur during his party's protest over fuel prices.
Earlier in the day, he visited Bhandana village in Dausa where he offered flowers at the memorial to his father and former Union minister Rajesh Pilot on his death anniversary. Pilot loyalist Meena called for an expansion of the Gehlot ministry.
The party high command should take a decision at the earliest because everyone is waiting, he said. Meena had recently issued a statement praising Gehlot for fulfilling the demands from his constituency and on the his government's management of the Covid crisis.
He said it was his duty to appreciate the work done by the CM but he stands with the younger leader. I was with Pilot, I am with Pilot and will remain with him, the MLA told reporters. Congress MLA Hemaram Choudhary met Pilot in Jaipur on Friday morning, his first public visit to the state capital after sending in his resignation to Speaker P C Joshi on May 18.
I resigned after listening to my heart. People may appeal to me to withdraw the decision but it is for me to decide, he told reporters. Choudhary said he sent the resignation letter as he was anguished over some issues.
Party sources said Pilot left for Delhi after taking part in the Congress dharna outside a petrol pump in Sanganer area in Jaipur. Other senior party leaders were present at the state-level protest held outside a petrol pump near Civil Lines on Ajmer road.
On Thursday, at least five Congress leaders had met Pilot at his Jaipur home. Former minister Vishvendra Singh held a one-on-one meeting with him. Later, Ved Prakash Solanki, Mukesh Bhakar, Ramniwas Gawria and Rakesh Pareek reached his residence.
They questioned the delay in cabinet expansion and political appointments by Gehlot. The Pilot faction MLAs said they will fight within the Congress.
"All of us are raising our voice for the strength of the party. Those who question our allegiance to the Congress are not well-wishers of the party," Chaksu MLA Solanki had said after meeting Pilot. He said the Congress high command should listen to Pilot and resolve the issues raised by him.
"There has been no discussion or hearings on the demands raised by us," the MLA said.