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Sachin Pilot has refused to comment but has expressed surprise at Ashok Gehlot’s statement. (PTI)
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has, for the first time, openly said his deputy Sachin Pilot should take responsibility for his son’s defeat in the national election, in which the Congress couldn’t win a single seat in the state.
In an interview to ABP News, Mr Gehlot said: “Sachin Pilot said we would win with a huge majority. He said we have six MLAs (legislators) and we have done very good campaigning there… Sachin Pilot should take responsibility for at least that (Jodhpur) seat.”
Vaibhav Gehlot lost by 2.7 lakh votes in Jodhpur to BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, after an intense campaign by his Chief Minister father who is accused by rivals of neglecting all other constituencies and addressing the maximum rallies for his son.
Asked about Sachin Pilot’s claim at a public rally that “while Gehlot-ji was silent”, he had pushed for Vaibhav Gehlot as the Congress candidate from Jodhpur, the Chief Minister remarked: “If Pilot said we would win a shandaar jeet (super victory) and he got my son his ticket to contest from Jodhpur, he should take responsibility for Jodhpur. Now we have lost 25 seats.”
He added, as if to temper the comment: “Responsibility is collective, whether it is the PCC chief (state Congress chief) or Chief Minister. The scale of the debacle is samajh se parey (beyond comprehension).”
Mr Gehlot was also asked about Congress president Rahul Gandhi reportedly criticizing veterans who pushed their sons against the party’s interests, in a meeting of the Congress Working Committee. “Such meetings have sanctity and what is said inside should remain within. It is not right to take what is said out of context and propagate it to the media,” he said.
Sachin Pilot, Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Congress chief, has refused to comment but has expressed surprise at Mr Gehlot’s statement.
Sources close to him have pointed out that Ashok Gehlot had lost by 400 votes in his own polling booth and this, being a three-time Chief Minister, four-time legislator and five-time parliamentarian from Jodhpur.
Mr Gehlot’s comment exposes the simmering feud between the Congress’s top two in Rajasthan, which is seen as a big factor in the party’s whiteout just five months after it took power in the state.
The rift peaked when neither Mr Gehlot nor Mr Pilot was willing to give up their claim to the Chief Minister’s post after the Congress emerged as the largest party in the December assembly polls.
At the time, it was said that Mr Gehlot won out on the promise that he would ensure good national election results for the Congress in the 25 seat state. In 2009, Mr Gehlot, just after becoming chief minister, had been credited with the Congress’s 20-seat haul. In 2014, the party was crushed by the BJP. The 2019 rout has stunned the Congress.