Flanked by 15 Congress MLAs at a rally here on Monday, dissident leader Sachin Pilot on Monday served notice to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot – agree to their demands by the month-end or face a state-wide agitation. The intensification of the power tussle between Gehlot-Pilot tussle in Rajasthan Congress came on a day when the party’s central leadership struggled to pick between two CM contenders -Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar- in Karnataka after winning the assembly polls there.
The public meeting marked the completion of Pilot’s five-day foot march from Ajmer to Jaipur over ‘inaction’ by the Gehlot government on ‘corruption’ during the previous BJP term in the state. Apart from a call for a high-level probe into corruption, Pilot spelled out two other demands disbanding the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) and its reconstitution, and compensation for those affected by the cancellation of government recruitment exams after paper leaks.
Pilot said he would not be cowed down. “I promise that I will continue to serve the people of Rajasthan till my last breath, even if I remain on any post or not. Nothing can scare me or suppress me, I have fought for you and will continue to do so,” he said. Pilot said his agitation was not against anyone but against corruption and for the youth. But Gehlot, who became the chief minister after the party ignored his own claim to the post in 2018, was clearly the main target.
He referred to the boycott by CM loyalists of the Congress Legislature Party meeting in September last year – when there was speculation over the possibility of Gehlot being made the party’s national president with the top Rajasthan post being given to Pilot. Pilot said whoever talks about factionalism and betrayal of the party should introspect over their ‘betrayal’ and the ‘insult’ to party leader Sonia Gandhi last year.
He said they should think ‘whether we or they broke discipline’.
“We remained in public even after being abused and worked for strengthening the organisation, and you are abusing and maligning us after eating ‘malai’ (cream),” he said in a possible reference to Gehlot and his camp. “This will not do,” Pilot said.
He also referred to a recent remark by the CM in which he credited BJP leaders Vasundhara Raje and Kailash Meghwal for ‘saving’ his government in 2020 when Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs rebelled. “What kind of policy is this that you malign the image of your own party leaders and praise others,” Pilot asked.
“I have never levelled charges against anyone. I have never said bad words against anyone. They left no opportunity to abuse me but this does not worry me,” he said, adding that in a democracy, it’s the people’s blessings that count. Questioning the selection of the RPSC chairman and members, he claimed that it was common knowledge that these appointments were political.
“The appointments need to be done in a transparent manner, and people like scientists and lecturer need to be chosen,” he said.