Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot’s Feud Deepens, But How Did It Begin? EXPLAINED


With Sachin Pilot firm on holding a fast to press his party-led government in Rajasthan for action against graft, the Congress Monday night issued a stern warning to him and said any such action on his part would amount to anti-party activity. Read more on this here

Sources close to Pilot told PTI he would go ahead with his daylong fast on Tuesday to press for action against corruption during the previous BJP government in Rajasthan.

Taking strong objection to the proposed dharna by Pilot, All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of the state Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said any such protest against its government clearly amounts to anti-party activity and goes against the party’s interest.

Pilot on Sunday alleged that the Ashok Gehlot-led government failed to investigate cases of alleged corruption during the BJP rule in Rajasthan and announced his plan to hold a day-long fast on April 11 to press for action.

The move by Pilot to open a new front against Gehlot amid the factional fighting is seen as an attempt to pressure the party high command to resolve the leadership issue ahead of the year-end polls.

Randhawa said he talked to Pilot during the day and told him to raise issues at party platforms instead of going public against its own government. “Pilot’s day-long fast is against the party’s interests. If there is any issue with his own government, it can be discussed in party forums instead of in the media and public,” Randhawa said in a statement. The leader added he has been an AICC in-charge for the last five months and Pilot never discussed the issue with him.

The Long History of the Pilot-Gehlot Feud

This is the latest development in Gehlot and Pilot’s long-running verbal feud. While many argue that the men have been at odds since 2018, others argue that the seeds were sown in 2013, when the Congress was at its lowest ebb in Rajasthan, winning only 21 of 200 Assembly seats, and Pilot was tasked with reviving the grand old party’s fortunes with Gehlot’s assurance of non-interference, according to a report by Firstpost.

Gehlot, with his extensive record of accomplishments – chief minister at 47, former PCC chief, and the driving force behind numerous successful state campaigns — was apparently demoted to the sidelines for the next couple of years in favour of Pilot.

Gehlot was appointed to a screening committee for the Punjab elections in 2016 and promoted to general secretary in Delhi in 2017, while Sachin Pilot secured three critical by-election victories for the Congress in early 2018, the report explains. When the Congress reclaimed power in Rajasthan, things began to fall apart, with the party’s top command passing over Pilot in favour of its old warhorse Gehlot.

Rahul Gandhi, the then-Congress president, was compelled to intercede and calm an enraged Pilot and his followers. According to the Indian Express, the first indication that all was not well in Congress came shortly after the two leaders took their oaths, when the cabinet portfolio distribution remained in limbo for many days. The Gehlot and Pilot groups then lobbied heavily with the high command for ministerial positions.

When ministerial portfolios were assigned near the end of December 2018, the Gehlot camp received the lion’s share, with the CM himself retaining crucial departments such as Finance and Home, which he still holds to this day.

The Boiling Point

The feud between Gehlot and Pilot reached its boiling point in July 2020, when the latter went off with 18 of his faithful MLAs and camped in Haryana and Delhi, causing the Gehlot government to face a serious political crisis, as per the Indian Express report. Pilot was later fired from both positions by the party’s leadership.

The political crisis triggered a never-ending cycle of assaults and counter-attacks between the two sides. Gehlot charged the Pilot group with conspiring with the BJP to destabilise his government. The Pilot faction responded with its own set of accusations. Pilot went to Rajasthan after a tenuous truce was struck by the Congress high command, but the fractures were frequently exposed, the report says.

In November last year, Gehlot had openly labelled Sachin Pilot a “traitor” and stated that his former deputy could not succeed him as chief minister. Even Congress was taken aback by Gehlot’s tirade on his former deputy, Pilot was described as a “youthful, energetic, popular, and charismatic leader” by the grand old party, which dubbed the chief minister’s attack “unexpected.”

In October of last year, Gehlot and his supporters successfully thwarted a Congress proposal, which appeared to have the Gandhis’ support, as per a report by Times of India, to move the chief minister to Delhi as party president and make Pilot the chief minister of Rajasthan ahead of assembly elections next year.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who was the party’s observer in the state at the time and was tasked with overseeing the change, witnessed the infighting in the state unit firsthand.

Solution Needed Soon

Pilot loyalists have continued to demand a “solution” to the state’s leadership crisis before the December 2023 Assembly elections, the Indian Express report says.

The long-running feud between Gehlot and Pilot has had an influence on the party’s organization, with many positions of district and block Congress presidents, as well as office-bearers, staying empty. Following Pilot’s revolt, the party leadership dissolved all district and block Congress committees in July 2020. The party ultimately chose 13 DCC presidents last year, but most districts still need chiefs.

With inputs from PTI

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