Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Thursday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, his second meeting with the Gandhis in a fortnight, and discussed the Rajasthan political situation. Sources said the possibilities of a change of guard in the state cannot be ruled out, as the leadership is said to be keen on retaining the state at any cost.
The Congress leadership is said to be weighing all options, sources said.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, however, appeared unruffled, with leaders close to him saying that he enjoys “complete confidence of the leadership”. They argued that Pilot has been “desperately trying, but the leadership knows the ground reality”.
Gehlot, one senior Congress leader said, enjoys the support of a majority of party MLAs. The Pilot camp, on the other hand, said that “a change of guard is no more not a possibility.” One leader said the high command is aware of the “ground situation” in Rajasthan and argued that the if the party does not retain the state in 2023, it will have an impact on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Pilot had met Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on April 8. On Thursday, he was in Sikar when he was called to Delhi for a meeting with Sonia. The meeting also comes at a time when the party leadership is deliberating on a revival plan presented by election strategist Prashant Kishor. Gehlot joined the deliberations on Wednesday.
Pilot signaled that the discussions were centered around Rajasthan, which goes to Assembly polls in December next year, months before the 2024 General Election; organisational elections that are under way; and the ‘Chintan Shivir’ that the party will hold in Rajasthan next month. Sources in the Pilot camp said he is not keen on taking up a role in AICC.
Sources leaders close to Pilot described Thursday’s meeting as “good” and insisted he was “happy with the outcome”.
Talking to reporters after Thursday’s meeting, Pilot said the committee that Sonia had set up in 2020 has made some right changes in the organisation and the state government. He said the party will have to move forward in that direction. “Some work has been done through the AICC committee but there is a need to do more hard work,” he said. “I am confident that if we work unitedly, a Congress government will be formed after next year’s Assembly polls.”
Pilot said: “A number of topics were discussed. We deliberated upon the struggle that we need to undertake for the issues of the people. The repressive policies of BJP at the Centre and states are before us. How the party has to be strengthened to work for the common people and become their voice was discussed.”
Stating that the ongoing organisational polls and the process was discussed, he said, “I have given feedback on the political situation in Rajasthan going forward, which was discussed.”
The Congress could not win a single seat in Rajasthan in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, months after the party won the Assembly elections in December 2018. Pilot said the Congress president is keen that all leaders work unitedly in Rajasthan for the party to retain power.
While Rajasthan has a history of voting out the incumbent government, Pilot said the Congress can buck that trend.
Asked what role he will get, Pilot said, “I have been working for the last 22 years in the party. Whenever the party has given me any responsibility — (be it) in Delhi, Jaipur, state, organisation, ministry (or) the Centre — I have fulfilled that with all my commitment. I will do the job that the Congress president directs me to do.”
Stating that it is “my responsibility” and that he wants that Congress remains the governing party after the polls “in my home state”, Pilot said, “Some work has been done through the AICC committee, but there is a need to do more hard work. I am confident that if we work unitedly, the Congress government would be formed next year again.”
Some party leaders had been claiming that the Gandhis had informally assured Pilot of a change of guard in Rajasthan at least a year before the Assembly polls, and that had prompted him to end the revolt he had waged against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in 2020. But the Congress’s rout in Punjab, where it had changed the chief minister and state unit president months before Assembly elections seems to have made the leadership apprehensive.
It is to be seen whether the Congress leadership will finally take the call in the next few months.