The Congress leadership is upset over the defiance lately by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (70) in ignoring its repeated calls to accommodate the loyalists of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot (43), whom he had dropped from his ministry after a revolt in July last year that brought his government almost to a fall.
A top party source on Wednesday said Congress President Sonia Gandhi had decided to handle the matter before it slipped out of control. She also proposed a formula to accommodate Pilot's supporters in the government, but she was shocked to find Gehlot not even taking her calls.
She had asked AICC general secretary Ajay Maken, in-charge of Rajasthan affairs, to convey the formula to the chief minister for execution without any delay, but Maken found himself helpless as Gehlot was not taking his phone calls nor responding to the messages and mails sent to him in the last three days.
In contrast, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh (80) made a second trip to Delhi on Tuesday on a call from Mallikarjun Kharge heading a 3-member panel set up to sort out the Punjab trouble and agreed to carry out certain changes as also implement the remaining poll promises.
Though cricketer-turned -politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has been making damaging statements against him almost on a daily basis, the chief minister is ready to accommodate him in a way the party leadership suggests to go to the polls early next year as a united force.
Pilot is understood to have conveyed to Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra that the leaders in his camp are restive as they feel betrayed since the promises made last year to end the revolt have not been fulfilled. She suggested to Pilot to come over to Delhi as a national general secretary to strengthen hands of her brother Rahul Gandhi, who is to take over the reigns soon, but he reportedly refused to accept any assignment until his supporters are suitably adjusted.
Sensing trouble brewing for another revolt, she swung into action and prepared a compromise formula in tandem with general secretary in-charge of organisation KC Venugopal and Ajay Maken. The latter conveyed the formula to Gehlot, asking him to accommodate some of Pilot's supporters in his ministry and the organisation. Sources said Maken's pleas were, however, dismissed by Gehlot with silence.
Unhappy with the proposal, Gehlot declared that he will not meet anybody for another one month. The excuse was doctor’s advice as some 40 people in his office and security had been infected with Covid. He has been since then taking meetings through video-conference, delaying any possibility of cabinet expansion. Sources said both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have interpreted this as a defiance and asked Maken to get the compromise formula implemented as soon as possible.
The bitterness on both sides is increasing every day. An MLA in Pilot group even said: “The gossip in Rajasthan is that Gehlot listens to Vasundhara Raje (former BJP chief minister) more than Sonia Gandhi. The axis is troubling the BJP as well. The Chief Minister branded us as defectors and BJP stooge when we rebelled last year, but he has himself been sending negative vibes to the high command.”
The MLA pointed out that “wife of poet Kumar Vishwash, who abused Rahul Gandhi and even contested against him in Amethi, has been made a Rajasthan Public Service Commission member with a minister of state rank. The daughter of Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar has been made Information Commissioner. But Congress MLAs cannot be made ministers. What message does Gehlot want to send?"
A senior party leader said it is the leadership crisis at the top that has emboldened the state leaders to behave irresponsibility while the inability of the veterans to accommodate the aspirations of the young leaders has also created a major problem for the party. There are even reports that the Pilot may split the Congress and float own party if the matters linger on without a solution.