Congress gives call for Ghar Wapasi as Pilot softens up; but Gehlot plays hardball

A declaration on Wednesday morning by rebel leader Sachin Pilot that he is not switching sides and is cancelling his scheduled press conference -- where he intended to reveal his future plans -- goaded the Congress leadership into giving him and his supporters a call for "Ghar Wapasi."

The Congress leadership sees prospects of a rapprochement in Pilot's comments, as it too does not want him to desert the party. It also sees in his conciliatory tone an opportunity to bring the curtains down on the crisis.

Congress chief spokesperson and firefighter Randeep Singh Surjewala, in turn, asked Pilot and his supporters, at a press conference in Jaipur, to spurn the hospitality of Haryana chief minister Manoharlal Khattar of the BJP and return home as "parivar sadasya (member of the family)." (Pilot’s brigade is ensconced in a hotel in Haryana)

The rapprochement may also see reversal of some of the decisions taken by the party like serving of notices to the rebel MLAs, which may have led to their disqualification from the Assembly. The party may also reinstate the two rebel ministers who were dropped from the state cabinet.

However, party sources said, chief minister Ashok Gehlot is playing hardball and has conveyed that he won’t allow Pilot to return as the deputy chief minister or as the PCC president. Going on the offensive, Gehlot claimed to have proof of Pilot's role in horse-trading. "We have proof of horse-trading: Rs 20 crore was offered. Those who took the money are holed up at the hotel in Manesar. Our deputy chief minister and PCC chief (Pilot) himself was negotiating the deal and, at the same time, giving statements that no horse-trading was on. What clarifications are you giving when you yourself were involved in it," Gehlot charged.

Sources said Gehlot was miffed when AICC general secretary K C Venugopal conveyed a message from the Gandhi family, asking him to bury the hatchet. Holding his ground, Geholt responded that he had expected that the leadership would immediately expel Pilot for his "anti-party" activities.

It was the conciliatory note struck by Pilot in the morning which persuaded Gandhis to bring him back in the "family." Pilot had told the media: "I am not joining the BJP. Those who are saying this are just trying to malign me in the eyes of the Gandhi family."

The manner in which Surjewala repeatedly described Pilot as a "yuva saathi" (young colleague) also indicated that the political farce will end soon. "Stop talking through the media and discuss all issues within the ‘parivar’ and in the party forum," Surjewala advised.

The Congress firefighter also underscored the special affection the Gandhi family had for Pilot who was made the PCC chief even after he lost the Lok Sabha election in 2014.

Since Congress President Sonia Gandhi had told party leaders not to yield to the "political blackmail," party sources said he may have to wait for a while before he can be ‘reinstated’ with respect.

Indications are that a face-saver is on the cards and he may be inducted as a national general secretary of the party and all actions initiated at the instance of the chief minister may be reversed one by one.

It is understood that three rebel MLAs have already rung up the chief minister and expressed a desire to return. 

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Free Press Journal