Defying the warning of the Congress party high command, the dissident leader of Rajasthan Congress Sachin Pilot set on a day-long fast against the inaction of the Ashok Gehlot government on alleged corruption cases of the previous Vasundhara Raje government in Jaipur on Tuesday.
The day-long fast was held at the Shaheed Smarak in Jaipur. Hundreds of Sachin Pilot supporters reached the protest though no big face of the party or sitting MLAs were seen on the spot.
The Congress had warned Sachin Pilot against going on fast today and called the move an "anti-party activity". Pilot, however, is pressing on with his fast to demand the Ashok Gehlot government take action against those involved in corrupt practices in the previous BJP government. The Gehlot government has denied Pilot's allegations of inaction, leading to a public spectacle of the ruling Congress just months away from the assembly election.
Congress warns Sachin Pilot of "Anti-Party Activity"
"Sachin Pilot's daylong fast on Tuesday is against the party's interests and is anti-party activity. If there is any issue with his own government, it can be discussed in the party forums instead of in the media and public," the Congress' Rajasthan in-charge Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said in a statement on Monday, in what is being seen as a final effort to de-escalate the friction between Pilot, who has been eyeing the Chief Minister's post for a long time, and Gehlot, the current Chief Minister.
Pilot Demands Action Against Corrupt, Seen as Pressure on Congress Leadership
Though Pilot is demanding action against the corrupt, the latest confrontation with the Gehlot government is being seen as his attempt to put pressure on the Congress leadership to settle the issue of who will be the key face of the party in Rajasthan in an election year.
Pilot keeps no secret about what he wants and the Congress also knows it, which is why the party appears to be scrambling for damage control as Gehlot has a sizable number of loyalists. The Chief Minister was expected to run for the Congress president's election last year, but he stayed on after a rebellion by more than 90 MLAs loyal to him demanded his continuity in power in Rajasthan.
Pilot denies that his latest move has anything to do with a leadership tussle, and says it is purely a call to act against the corrupt. But his message is not lost on the Gehlot camp in an election year.
Pilot's Allegations of Inaction by Gehlot Government
"No action was taken (by the Gehlot government) on corruption by the previous Vasundhara Raje government. While in the opposition, we promised an inquiry into the mines scam of ₹ 45,000 crore," Pilot told reporters while announcing the fast. He said he wrote two letters last year to Gehlot detailing the issue, but got no response, after which he decided to take a stronger measure now.
Support for Pilot's Fast, Congress Statement Leans Towards Gehlot
Pilot has requested MLAs supporting him to not join him at the fast, but his supporters are expected to turn up in large numbers for what could be a turning point in Rajasthan politics.
The Congress on Monday put out a statement that leaned more towards Mr Gehlot. "A probe is underway on how the BJP conspired to topple our elected government in Rajasthan and tried to buy our MLAs," said Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera. "It is wrong to say that a probe is not on, as an investigation is being carried out and if anyone has a complaint, he should bring it to the notice of the AICC in-charge," Khera added.