Home >Politics >News >Congress remains divided in Rajasthan as Gehlot-Pilot rift deepens

NEW DELHI : The Congress government in Rajasthan remained a divided house on Monday even as party leaders claimed chief minister Ashok Gehlot enjoyed a comfortable majority with nearly 105 legislators supporting him.

If true, the threat to the Gehlot-led government is reduced. However, the party is being cautious and has shifted its members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) to a resort on the outskirts of Jaipur on Monday. What continues to keep the Congress on tenterhooks is the fact that deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot has kept his cards close to his chest.

“From what we understand, Pilot has the support of 16 party MLAs apart from three independents, which makes it 20 including himself. The threat has reduced because the anti-defection law can apply and resigning would only mean lowering the assembly’s strength. But the party is taking no chance and is trying to speak to both Pilot and the legislators who support him," said a senior Rajasthan Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.

Earlier, a meeting of the Congress Legislative Party was held at Gehlot’s official residence and a resolution passed recommending strong disciplinary action against any Congress MLA o office bearer who “weakens" the party or does not extend support to the chief minister. The MLAs who attended the meeting were sent to a resort soon after.

Over 100 legislators attended the meeting, including 88-90 Congress MLAs, 10 independents, and a few from smaller parties. “There is no immediate threat to the state government and the legislators have supported Ashok Gehlot. However, Congress legislators have been shifted to a resort to ensure the BJP cannot reach them," said another Congress leader based in Jaipur.

The Congress central leadership had reached out to Pilot, who party leaders said was in New Delhi as on Monday evening. But there was no word of a formal meeting. Some Congress leaders said that while the possibility of Pilot revolting against the leadership cannot be ruled out, the top leadership is trying to ensure that the issue is resolved amicably.

The Congress has called another meeting of its legislators on Tuesday in Jaipur. The party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said it has appealed to Pilot and all other MLAs to attend the meeting. The top leadership is open to listening and finding solutions, he said.

“We said that our doors are open for him. This situation can go either way from here because there is a view that Pilot and his supporters could ask for a formal trust vote. As far as any negotiation is concerned, the party is willing to sit across the table and discuss his grievances," said a central party leader requesting anonymity.

The Congress remained at the crossroads on the tussle between Pilot and Gehlot and the bigger narrative of the old guard versus young blood. Despite being in government together, the two leaders have had differences, beginning with disagreements over seat sharing in the run-up to the assembly polls in 2018 and peaked with Pilot’s supporters bidding for him as the chief ministerial candidate, which led to violent protests in parts of the state.

The Congress, however, alleged that the BJP was using Pilot to undermine the party.

anuja@livemint.com

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