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Sachin Pilot met Rahul Gandhi, the former party president, and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Delhi on Monday. (Mint)
Sachin Pilot met Rahul Gandhi, the former party president, and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Delhi on Monday. (Mint)

Amid signs of a thaw, Pilot camp hints at backing Gehlot in Rajasthan

Sonia Gandhi has formed a three-member panel to address issues raised by Pilot and the MLAs supporting him

NEW DELHI : Signs of a thaw emerged for the ruling Congress in Rajasthan on Monday, ahead of a possible trust vote on Friday, with former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot meeting former party president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Delhi.

In a dramatic turn of events, the day also saw a softening of the stand taken by a section of members of legislative assembly (MLAs) who backed Pilot’s revolt and are now expected to extend support to the Congress government led by chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

“Sachin Pilot has met with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and expressed his grievances in detail. They have had a frank, open and conclusive discussion. Sachin Pilot has committed to working in the interest of the Congress and the Congress government in Rajasthan," senior party leader K.C. Venugopal said late on Monday evening.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has formed a three-member committee to address issues raised by Pilot and the MLAs supporting him, to “arrive at an appropriate resolution".

The statement by Venugopal is significant as it was released after a telephone conversation between Sonia Gandhi and Gehlot, a move that senior leaders feel could mark a step forward in breaking the deadlock in Rajasthan where 18 MLAs led by Pilot had revolted against Gehlot nearly a month ago.

“As of Monday, seven or eight MLAs from the rebel camp were in touch with senior leaders in Jaipur. This issue has gone on for almost a month and there was a growing feeling among them that losing a seat in case of a byelection may not be a good bargain at this stage. We were told that the chief minister has spoken to the party president but only time will tell whether a compromise solution is met or not and what its contours are," a senior party leader from Jaipur said on condition of anonymity.

The developments also indicate greater involvement of the young brigade of the party in resolving the imbroglio. Rahul Gandhi’s intervention comes against the backdrop of a growing chorus for his return as Congress president.

A series of internal meetings took place in both Jaipur and Delhi. The young Gandhi leaders met Pilot in the national capital, while senior leader Bhanwar Lal Sharma from Pilot’s camp met Gehlot in the state capital Jaipur. Sharma later said the Congress party is a “family".

“There is no discussion on change in leadership. It is a fake and hollow rumour. Ashok Gehlot is the chief minister and he will remain so for five years," Govind Singh Dotasra, the Congress state unit chief said in Jaipur.

Pilot was last month removed from the post of both deputy chief minister and state unit chief. According to people aware of the developments, the key demand of Pilot’s camp could include the post of deputy chief minister, reinstatement of those who were removed as ministers and more plum posts in the government and party. The Congress has 107 MLAs, of whom 19, including Pilot, have turned dissidents. Six MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party have merged with the Congress but this is being contested legally and will be heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

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