After months of trading sharp attacks with rival Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has labeled the feud an “internal matter” of the Congress party, which is struggling to form a united front for the state elections, which will take place in a few months.
“Recently, in Delhi, we were talking to each other under the supervision of Rahul Gandhi, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa,” Gehlot said in an interview with NewsMadura.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about it right now. Once we sit down to talk, if I say anything now it could be misunderstood,” he said, asking to “close the topic”.
However, he assured that even now he was ready to act against former Chief Minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje – a demand repeatedly made by Mr Pilot, who accused the state government of treating her softly in corruption allegations.
“All the allegations we have made against her (Ms. Raje) have been taken to court. I will step in if anyone, even a random person, can point out what we are still dealing with,” he said.
The chief minister clarified his comment last month when he claimed that Vasundhara Raje and two other BJP leaders had played a role in saving his government during the 2020 uprising by his party’s MLAs led by Mr Pilot.
“Kailash Meghwal had raised the subject of how I had once refused to overthrow Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s BJP government, stating how Rajasthan has not had a culture of horse trading,” Mr Gehlot said.
“To that I responded that Vasundhara Raje ji didn’t believe in horse trading either. She hadn’t told me herself, but her MLAs suggested that when they met me,” he said.
“That comment was twisted to claim that I credited her for saving my government during the 2020 uprising. People within her party tried to make an issue of it against her,” he added.
Mr Gehlot had posed for photos with Mr Pilot last week after a four-hour meeting with the Delhi Congress party leadership in an attempt to project their unity that left many questions unanswered.
Though he said he was ready to team up with his rival, Ashok Gehlot concluded the performance with a farewell shot, urging leaders to be “patient” and wait for their chance to serve, suggesting that his split with Mr. Pilot remained alive and well.
Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot have been embroiled in a power struggle since the Rajasthan Congress came to power in 2018.
Although Mr. Pilot agreed to play second fiddle to the veteran, in 2020 he rebelled and camped near Delhi for days, but ended his attack after the Gandhis assured him a solution.
The uprising petered out when over 80 MLAs chose to stay with Mr. Gehlot. At no point has Mr. Pilot been able to produce more than 20 MLAs in support.
Last year, some 72 MLAs resigned in protest at the Congress’ decision to make Mr Gehlot party chairman, which would mean replacing him in Rajasthan, possibly by Mr Pilot.
Earlier this year, Mr Pilot launched a solo campaign for the polls in Rajasthan shortly after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra was in the state while being called a gaddar (traitor) and nikamma (worthless) by Mr Gehlot, among others.