Ashok Gehlot tamped down talk of a fresh tussle with Sachin Pilot

Debjit Mukherjee: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday tamped down talk of a fresh tussle with Sachin Pilot weeks ahead of state elections, asserting that the party was united. In what appeared to be a veiled dig at Pilot, though, Gehlot said that while he wanted to leave the chief minister’s post, the post just wouldn’t leave him.

Gehlot’s remark that generated laughs at a press conference came amid questions about a delay in the Congress announcing its chief ministerial candidate for the state.

“A woman once told me that, god willing, you should become Chief Minister for the fourth time. So, I told her that I want to leave the post of chief minister, but this post is not leaving me, and probably won’t ever,” Gehlot said in Delhi.

He further said that there “must be something in me” that the party high command had chosen him to lead the state thrice.

The Chief Minister’s comments are significant against the backdrop of factionalism within the Rajasthan unit of the Congress. Bitter rival Sachin Pilot not being invited to the Congress Working Committee meeting in Delhi has fueled talk of renewed problems.

Answering a question about the delay in naming the chief ministerial face, Gehlot rejected rumors of a fresh face-off with Pilot, who has long nursed chief ministerial ambitions. That rivalry turned into a full-blown rebellion against Gehlot in 2020.

Gehlot said that he had adopted a policy of “forgive and forget”. He also blamed rumours of infighting within the Congress on the BJP’s machinations.

“This is the pain of the Opposition regarding the selection process – that’s why there are no differences in the Congress party,” Gehlot said. “I am sure you are talking about Sachin Pilot. All decisions are made by including everyone’s opinion. I am participating in the decisions of Sachin Pilot’s supporters.”

Shutting down talk of differences within the party on ticket distribution, Gehlot asserted, “I’ve not opposed any single candidate (from Pilot camp).”

The Congress Election Committee, chaired by party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, held a meeting to deliberate on the names of the candidates for the Rajasthan assembly polls on Wednesday. Along with Kharge and Gehlot, former Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, AICC in-charge of the state Sukhjinder Randhawa, state Congress chief Govind Dotasra, general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal and the party’s Rajasthan screening committee chief Gaurav Gogoi attended the meeting.

Following the meeting, Kharge said the Congress would retain power in Rajasthan, riding on the good governance of the Ashok Gehlot government in the state in the last five years.