In a bid to put an end to the differences between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress MLA Sachin Pilot, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) made them fly together in a helicopter.
It was done at the behest of the AICC general secretary, Ajay Maken, who is trying to resolve the issues between the two leaders and ensure that they not only fly together, but also address the rallies planned by the party for the four Assembly bye-elections in the state.
Ashok Gehlot maintains distance
Despite the return of Pilot to the party fold after a rebellion last year, Ashok Gehlot has maintained a distance from the former deputy CM.
Pilot had led the rebellion with 19 other MLAs against Gehlot challenging his authority and demanding sharing of power. The rebellion resulted in a major threat for the Congress government which Gehlot managed to save by stopping any further shifting of loyalties.
Pilot, who demanded a fair deal for himself and the 19 MLAs who supported him, returned to Congress after hiding in Delhi and Haryana. The rebels returned to save the government after an assurance given to them by both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
Cabinet expansion deferred
But Gehlot was unwilling to compromise on any issue and deferred the expansion of the Cabinet. The two Cabinet ministers Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena, who were sacked as ministers were not rehabilitated by Gehlot on some pretext or the other. This resulted in tension between the Gehlot and the Pilot camps.
But Pilot after coming back to the party’s fold did not utter a word against Gehlot or the party. He held rallies and his supporter MLAs remained loyal to him.
Following the last year’s rebellion, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had formed a three-member committee headed by late Ahmed Patel, with KC Venugopal and Ajay Maken as the members. This committee heard Pilot’s version, but the committee never submitted any report.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Patel passed away leaving Pilot in the lurch. Since then, Pilot has been knocking at the doors of the party’s high command demanding his and his supporter MLAs rehabilitation. But Gehlot was in no mood to oblige either Pilot or the rebels.
However, persistent efforts by Maken to bring the two leaders together before the four by-elections in the state succeeded and Gehlot allowed Pilot to travel with him to address the two by-election rallies at Dungargarh in Bikaner and Matrikundia in Chittorgarh.
The four bye-elections at Sahara, Rajsamand, Vallabhnagar and Sujangarh are crucial for the Congress, though it enjoys a majority in the House of 200.
Maken has tried to break the ice between Gehlot and Pilot, but how far he would be able to help Pilot in his rehabilitation is yet to be seen.
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