Will welcome back rebels if party brass forgives them, says Gehlot

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Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said on Saturday that he would welcome back former deputy chief minister Sachin pilot and other dissident Congress legislators if the party’s high command forgave them.

“If the high command forgives them (dissident MLAs), I will hug them. I have no prestige point,” Gehlot said while talking to media outside a Jaisalmer hotel, where the MLAs loyal to him were shifted ahead of the assembly session from August 14.

The fissures in the state Congress leadership came to the fore when Pilot and 18 other MLAs rebelled against the Gehlot government in July. The chief minister has accused Pilot of trying to topple the government and alleged that he did nothing substantial as the Rajasthan Congress president in a seven-year tenure.

Gehlot, however, has now said that he would do as the party’s brass decides.

“The party has given me so much. I have been on many posts — three times chief minister, state party chief… What all I am doing is to serve people. Whatever the high command decides, I have no objections to it,” the 69-year-old leader said.

Stating that the democracy in the country was “under threat”, Gehlot said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was playing a “big game of horse trading”. He urged Prime Minister Nraendra Modi to stop all attempts to topple his elected government.

“We have no quarrel with anyone. In a democracy, fights happen over ideology, policies and programmes and not for toppling a government. Modi should get stopped whatever is going on in Rajasthan,” he said.

Gehlot said Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat should resign on moral grounds, stating that his involvement in a “conspiracy” to topple the Rajasthan government was now known. Shekhawat’s name was linked to the audio tapes, purportedly of conversations detailing the plot to topple the Gehlot government. The Union minister has denied it was his voice on the audio clips and said he was ready to face any investigation.

State BJP chief Satish Poonia rejected Gehlot’s charges and asked him to focuss on his party instead of attacking the BJP. “If they had the numbers [number of MLAs needed to prove majority], this situation would not have arisen and the MLAs would not have been confined to a hotel. They have lost the mandate mentally,” he said.

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