Sachin Pilot meets Rahul Gandhi in Delhi, sows hope of ‘positive outcome’
Sachin Pilot, the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister who triggered a breakaway from the ruling Congress in the state, reached out to the party leadership in Delhi and held a meeting with Rahul Gandhi on Monday, according to two senior leaders aware of the developments.
It was not immediately clear what was discussed at the meeting that was held in Delhi, one of these people said, adding: “However, since they met, a positive outcome is expected.” The developments take place exactly a month after Pilot and 18 dissident Rajasthan legislators left Jaipur to rebel against chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
The second leader earlier said that Pilot had sought an appointment with former party chief Rahul Gandhi and that Pilot has been speaking to senior leaders Ahmed Patel and KC Venugopal, in what is being seen as an apparent softening of his stance.
Neither Pilot, nor Rahul Gandhi’s office commented on the meeting. This is the first time that Gandhi met Pilot since the latter left Jaipur after the Special Operations Group under Gehlot’s ministry, issued him a show-cause notice in a case involving a plot to bring down the government.
Pilot has till now insisted on the removal of Gehlot as chief minister as a pre-condition for any sort of rapprochement, while the Congress had asked him and his legislators supporting him to give up the “hospitality” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before starting a conversation on resolving the current impasse.
A member of Pilot’s team, which has been camping in various places from Faridabad to Manesar after spending several days at the ITC Grand Bharat hotel, pointed out that the Congress Legislature Party meeting had completely ruled out a return of the rebels. Pilot’s rebellion stems from his complaints against the operational style of Gehlot, this person added.
The second Congress leader cited above said that while that may be the case, with the state government looking reasonably secure, some of the legislators supporting Pilot are becoming restless and want him to reach some sort of understanding with the party’s central leadership.
While the Gehlot camp has been claiming the support of 102 legislators in the 200-member House, Pilot’s has not been able to increase its numbers from 19, although this number was previously claimed to be at least 30 by the former deputy chief minister and his aides.
Monday’s developments come against the backdrop of the Congress suggesting, at least at the state level, that ties with Pilot are set to be severed. The general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pande, on Sunday ruled out a return of Pilot and his supporters. “In politics, sometimes to save democracy, dil par pathar rakhna padta hai (difficult calls need to be taken),” he told the media.
In the run up to the assembly session on August 14 that is likely to feature a floor test, the opposition BJP also shifted 20 of its 72 legislators to Gujarat to prevent any poaching attempts by the Congress.
While Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Poonia denied any internal rifts, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje met party president JP Nadda and defence minister Rajnath Singh last week to discuss the political developments in her state.
The BJP will hold a meeting of its legislators and those belonging to its alliance partner, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) of Hanuman Beniwal on Tuesday, the day Rajasthan high court will hear a petition challenging the merger of six MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with the Congress.
These BSP legislators have since moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer of their case from Rajasthan high court to the country’s top court.