Prakash Bhandari, Jaipur: Even as the Congress high command has ensured the return of Sachin Pilot and 18 dissident MLAs to the party’s fold, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot is unlikely to accommodate them.
Four dissidents, who were earlier in the Pilot camp, met with the Rajasthan CM to smoothen their re-entry. The four MLAs include veteran Bhanwarlal Sharma and independents—Om Prakash Hudla, Suresh Tak and Khushvir Singh Jojawar. They also extended their support to him.
Meeting of 4 Pilot camp MLAs with CM politically significant
The meeting of the four dissidents with the chief minister is being considered politically significant. They wanted to convey to the chief minister that they have severed their association with Pilot. Also, they would be now supporting Gehlot in the number game. It is likely that a few more dissidents might meet the chief minister directly and apologise for conspiring to topple the government.
The four MLAs tried to build a personal rapport with Ashok Gehlot with the hope of getting ministerial berths.
But the Chief Minister is unlikely to expand his ministry at this stage. He is very concerned about the 100 loyal MLAs who sided with his government during the crisis. The loyal MLAs also rejected the offers of the Sachin Pilot group to join them.
Gehlot loyalists oppose return of dissidents
On Sunday during a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party at the Jaisalmer hotel, the loyalist MLAs opposed the return of the rebel MLAs. A senior minister of the cabinet, Shanti Dhariwal, vehemently opposed the re-entry of dissidents into the party. He demanded that the rebels should be punished.
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Thus Gehlot will have to look for an opportune time to go for a Cabinet reshuffle even if the high command pressurises him to take some dissidents as ministers or parliamentary secretary. It is not known on what condition the rebels agreed to return to the party’s fold, but Pilot must have got assurance from the party’s high command on accommodating some of the rebels.
There is speculation that the two sacked ministers Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena will be re-inducted in the cabinet after the suspension against them by the party was lifted. But sources close to the chief minister said that the CM would go to Delhi after the Assembly session and discuss with the party’s leadership in Delhi the new strategies. During the meeting, Gehlot would apprise about the political situation and also the feelings of the loyalists against the rebels.
Well-guarded statement by Congress
After a meeting with the rebels, the Congress high command issued a well-guarded statement. The statement reads: “Pilot, whose differences with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot led to the crisis, had frank, open and conclusive discussion with Rahul Gandhi over his grievances. Sachin Pilot has committed to working in the best interest of the Congress Party and the government in Rajasthan”.
But, the three-member committee set up by Sonia Gandhi to look after the grievances of Pilot and other dissidents has many strings attached. The formation of the committee would mean no major decisions would be taken till the committee meet the dissidents and submit its report. Sonia has not named the members of the committee nor given it any time limit and till then, Gehlot is also bound by the order of Sonia Gandhi.
Right to withdraw
Pilot in an interview to a news channel had categorically stated that he would not seek a position and would be happy to serve the party in any position. He also said that if the party gives its cadre any position, it has the right to withdraw that position also.
Gehlot is facing a piquant position as the loyalists would demand immediate rewards for their loyalty on one side and the dissidents one the other hand would also demand their pound of flesh for returning to the party’s fold.
Wait and watch
Gehlot will also study the attitude of the 18 other Congress MLAs and will have to wait and watch how many still remain a supporter of Pilot. Gehlot’s effort would be to see that the rebels break away from Pilot and become his supporters before they could expect any reward. Gehlot has emerged stronger after the rebellion gave up and he will have his say in the rehabilitation programme.
It is likely that Pilot will be rewarded with some organisational position in the AICC set-up in Delhi to keep him away from the party’s affairs in his home turf.
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