Jaipur/ New Delhi:
Sachin Pilot, baby face- that’s the new dart hurled by the 42-year-old’s former boss Ashok Gehlot today as he accused Mr Pilot of betrayal. “He was conspiring with the BJP for the last six months to bring down the government,” Mr Gehlot said. “Nobody used to believe me when I talked of this conspiracy.. Nobody knew that a person with such innocent face will do such a thing,” he added. The Chief Minister also used “nikamma“, salty for “useless” or “incompetent” to describe his rival.
Mr Gehlot, who is the Chief Minister of Rajasthan – Mr Pilot was his deputy till last week when he was sacked by the Congress from this and other posts that he held – unpacked his latest charges against Mr Pilot at the Fairmont Hotel, where, for a week, the nearly 100 MLAs who have chosen him over Mr Pilot have been holed up. In-house entertainment has included showings of the Aamir Khan blockbuster Lagaan, cooking classes, and yoga sessions.
The workouts showed nobody breaking a sweat. At stake, though, is Mr Gehlot’s government. And the weighty issue of whether the Congress will lose Mr Pilot, often flagged by his party as proof that young leaders apart from Rahul Gandhi are allowed big play.
Though the Congress insists it is still open to welcoming back Mr Pilot into its fold, provided he “return without preconditions”, that appears to belong in the slim-to-none category of possibilities. Mr Pilot was sacked as No 2 in Mr Gehlot’s government, has been publicly accused by the Chief Minister of colluding with the opposition BJP to bring down his government, and has gone to court to ward off his party’s attempt to disqualify him and the 18 MLAs siding with him from being disqualified as members of the Rajasthan assembly.
Last week, Mr Gehlot suggested that Mr Pilot has benefited from bubbly valuations of his abilities, declaring that “being handsome” and “speaking good English” are not the metrics of true leadership. To that list today, he added “baby face” and “worthless.”
Mr Pilot went rogue on the Congress after he was asked by the state police, which reports to Mr Gehlot, to answer allegations about bribes being offered to Congress legislators to incentivize them to move to the BJP and end Mr Gehlot’s term as Chief Minister. The young politician left Jaipur and has refused to return; he has said that any reconciliation has to be premised on his replacing Mr Gehlot as Chief Minister. The Congress has said it cannot entertain that condition but is willing to work with Mr Pilot to find a suitable role for him.
When Mr Pilot began his revolt, he said he had 30 MLAs with him. So far, that number seems to stand at 18. The gap is enough to give the Congress reason to believe it can comfortably survive his departure.