In a reversal of his stand, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday said if the Congress high command forgave the rebels, including former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, then he would also welcome them back in the fold.
Mr. Gehlot had used harsh words against Mr. Pilot, calling him “nikamma” or useless, at a time when the Congress leadership was working hard to mend bridges with the rebel camp.
In response to reporters’ queries, Mr. Gehlot said he would do whatever the Congress leadership wanted. He gave the party the credit for him becoming Chief Minister thrice.
Mr. Gehlot was on his way back to Jaipur after an overnight stay at Jaisalmer’s Suryagarh Resort where the Congress MLAs are staying.
The Gehlot loyalists were shifted after an 18-day stay in Fairmont Hotel in Jaipur to Jaisalmer on Friday after party leaders felt that pressure was growing on them. The Assembly is scheduled to meet on August 14 and there is speculation that the number of legislators supporting Mr. Gehlot may have fallen below the crucial 100 number. The Congress has 107 members and the BJP 72 out of 200 members in the House. Mr. Pilot has the support of 18 legislators.
Mr. Gehlot said, “We have no quarrel with anyone. In a democracy, fights happen over ideology, policies and programmes and not for toppling a government”. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get the alleged attempt to topple his government stopped. “Modi should stop whatever is going on in Rajasthan,” he said.
Letter to PM
Mr. Gehlot had in a letter to Mr. Modi made a similar request. He claimed that democracy was under threat in the country and Union Home Minister Amit Shah was after his government in the State. He reiterated his earlier allegation of the BJP’s attempt to buy Congress legislators, saying the “rate” for luring MLAS had gone up after the announcement of the Assembly session.
Mr. Gehlot also accused BJP State president Satish Poonia of sidelining former Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje. He commented that Ms Raje has “disappeared” from the scene.
Mr Poonia had mocked the Congress, asking if Gehlot loyalists would next move further westward across the border into Pakistan.
(With inputs from PTI)
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