Congress leader Sachin Pilot is in Delhi to try and meet with the party leadership on demands that he says have remained unresolved months after he was promised a solution. Days after Jitin Prasada quit the Congress and switched to the BJP, the Rajasthan leader’s visit signals a red alert for the party, one that can no longer be ignored.
Sachin Pilot arrived in Delhi on Friday evening, hours after he brushed aside claims by BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi that he was at the Congress exit door.
Ms Joshi, a former Congress leader, had claimed that she had spoken to Mr Pilot and had reason to believe he would join the BJP soon.
“Rita Bahuguna Joshi has said she has spoken to Sachin. She might have spoken to Sachin Tendulkar. She doesn’t have the courage to speak to me,” Mr Pilot quipped.
His flight to Delhi soon after conveyed the message that he was not to be taken for granted. He is reportedly in touch with the Gandhis and may meet them over the weekend.
After Jyotiraditya Scindia – who left the party for the BJP last year — and Jitin Prasada, Mr Pilot is seen to be a flight risk by a section of the party, though sources close to him have made it clear that he is “not joining the BJP and doing their cow politics”. He has also asserted that he will fight for his share and for reforms from within the Congress.
The former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister has been pressing for his MLAs and supporters to be accommodated in the state’s cabinet and party posts. So far, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has resisted it.
Mr Gehlot has nine cabinet vacancies to fill, and Mr Pilot has reportedly asked for most of them. For the Chief Minister, that is untenable as he has reportedly told party bosses that he can’t neglect independent MLAs and others who supported him when Mr Pilot revolted last year.
In July last, Mr Pilot rushed to Delhi when he was served notice in an investigation into an alleged attempt by BJP MLAs to topple the Congress government in Rajasthan. Mr Pilot camped near Delhi for weeks along with MLAs close to him while Chief Minister Gehlot sequestered Congress MLAs loyal to him at a hotel in Jaipur. The standoff ended with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra stepping in and persuading Mr Pilot to drop his rebellion.
The Congress also appointed a three-member panel and Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot shook hands on camera.
Mr Pilot’s camp is upset that nothing has changed since then, and the state government has already completed half-term.
Congress leaders have reassured Mr Pilot that efforts are on for a solution that will please both him and Mr Gehlot.
That is easier said than done, with party leaders stressing that the priority is for the Rajasthan government to complete its term.
Mr Pilot, say sources, is also dismayed that the Rajasthan turmoil did not draw the kind of attention that the party gave to the Amarinder Singh-Navjot Singh Sidhu feud in Punjab, where elections will be held next year.
The Congress held several meetings in Delhi with MLAs and leaders of Punjab to come up with a fix.