New Delhi: Sachin Pilot met both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday for the first time since he launched his revolt a month ago, as the Congress claimed a breakthrough in untangling the crisis that had pushed its Rajasthan government led by Ashok Gehlot to the razor’s edge. The terms for Sachin Pilot’s “homecoming” along with 18 other rebels were discussed at a meeting at Rahul Gandhi’s home, say sources.
A panel to look into Sachin Pilot’s grievances is a key takeaway from the talks, the sources said, adding that the Gandhis agreed to address “all issues” regarding Rajasthan, including Ashok Gehlot’s style of functioning. It is unclear whether Mr Pilot, who was sacked from his two posts in Rajasthan – Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress chief – will be reinstated as part of the “ghar-wapsi” formula. Congress sources indicated it is unlikely he will get back the post of the state Congress chief.
Removing Mr Gehlot as Chief Minister, which Mr Pilot has demanded all along, is also “out of the question”, leaders said.
The talks, which lasted for about two-three hours, were described as “a meeting of minds” by Team Pilot.
Mr Pilot has reportedly been in touch with the Congress leadership over the past few days. Last night, he reportedly told a senior leader he was ready to meet with the Gandhis, who, burnt by the Jyotiraditya Scindia exit, had been proactively chasing a resolution this time.
When Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress in March, taking down the Madhya Pradesh government, he had revealed that he had been denied an appointment with Rahul Gandhi for nearly a year.
Sources say to enable the turnaround, Priyanka Gandhi met with Sachin Pilot two weeks back on neutral grounds in Delhi, after which talks were held at various levels.
Priyanka Gandhi’s previous attempts at mollifying Mr Pilot had not delivered results; last month, she reportedly offered to have him meet Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi – her mother and brother – but the rebel allegedly refused to even consider any meeting unless Ashok Gehlot was removed. In a sharp war of words that erupted after the talks were reported in the media, Team Priyanka claimed he had refused to settle for anything less than being named Chief Minister.
Reports of a possible rapprochement have emerged just four days before a special session of the Rajasthan assembly, where Ashok Gehlot is likely to push for a trust vote to prove his majority and outmanoeuvre Mr Pilot, whom he accuses of collaborating with the BJP to topple his government.
Mr Gehlot has been firmly against any outreach to the rebels, mainly Mr Pilot. The Chief Minister has launched multiple and sharp attacks on his 42-year-old sacked deputy, accusing him of bribing MLAs to switch to the BJP and even labelling him “nikamma” (useless).
Mr Pilot emphatically denied any plan to join the BJP, even though his rebel squad enjoyed the hospitality of resorts in BJP-ruled Haryana for four weeks.
Since the Congress won Rajasthan in 2018, its top two in the state never got along but their relationship hit rock-bottom when Mr Pilot was summoned by the Special Operations Group, which reports to Mr Gehlot, to answer questions on the alleged bribing of MLAs.
In its truce attempts, the Congress leadership in Delhi may face a push-back from Rajasthan, where Congress MLAs hit out at Team Pilot’s “betrayal” in a meeting last night.
A Congress Legislature Party meeting was held at a hotel in Jaisalmer where Mr Gehlot is guarding his flock after the Governor agreed to an assembly session from August 14. The 19 rebels should not be allowed any homecoming, the Congress MLAs reportedly said.
Mr Gehlot asked the party legislators to show their unity on the floor of the House. “We are all democracy warriors. We are going to win this war and also win the (assembly) election after three-and-a-half years,” he told the MLAs, not sounding conciliatory in the least.