Sachin Pilot met with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today for the first time since he launched his revolt a month ago, calling a truce to end the Rajasthan Congress government’s survival crisis. The terms for Sachin Pilot’s “homecoming” along with 18 other rebels were discussed at a meeting at Rahul Gandhi’s home, after which the Congress put out a statement confirming the breakthrough.
Sachin Pilot “expressed his grievances in detail” to the Gandhis and they had a “frank, open and conclusive discussion,” said senior Congress leader KC Venugopal.
“Sachin Pilot has committed to working in the interest of the Congress party and the Congress government in Rajasthan,” he said, adding that Congress President Sonia Gandhi has decided that a three-member committee would address the issues raised by Mr Pilot and the other rebels.
The rapprochement came to pass just four days before a special session of the Rajasthan assembly, where Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was expected to push for a trust vote to prove his majority and outmanoeuvre Mr Pilot, whom he had accused of collaborating with the BJP to topple his government.
“I had maintained from Day One that I would never join the BJP. I stand vindicated today,” Mr Pilot told NDTV.
It is unclear whether Mr Pilot, who was sacked from his two posts in Rajasthan – Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress chief – will be reinstated as part of the “ghar-wapsi” formula. Congress sources indicated he may be “adjusted outside Rajasthan”.
Removing Mr Gehlot as Chief Minister, which Mr Pilot has demanded all along, is also “out of the question”, leaders said.
The talks with the Gandhis, which lasted for about two-three hours, were described as “a meeting of minds” by Team Pilot.
Mr Pilot has reportedly been in touch with the Congress leadership over the past few days. Last night, he reportedly told a senior leader he was ready to meet with the Gandhis, who, singed by the Jyotiraditya Scindia exit, had been proactively chasing a resolution.
When Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress in March, taking down the Madhya Pradesh government, he had revealed that he had been denied a meeting with Rahul Gandhi for nearly a year.
Sources say to enable the turnaround, Priyanka Gandhi met with Sachin Pilot two weeks back on neutral grounds in Delhi, after which talks were held at various levels.
Priyanka Gandhi’s previous attempts at mollifying Mr Pilot had not delivered results; last month, the rebel allegedly refused to even consider her offer of a meeting unless Ashok Gehlot was removed.
In its truce attempts, the Congress leadership in Delhi may face a push-back from Rajasthan, where Congress MLAs hit out at Team Pilot’s “betrayal” in a meeting last night. A Congress Legislature Party meeting was held at a hotel in Jaisalmer where Mr Gehlot is guarding his flock after the Governor agreed to an assembly session from August 14. The 19 rebels should not be allowed any homecoming, the Congress MLAs reportedly said.
Mr Gehlot has been firmly against any outreach to the rebels, mainly Mr Pilot. But sources say the party’s top leadership spoke to him this morning.
The Chief Minister has launched multiple and sharp attacks on his 42-year-old sacked deputy, accusing him of bribing MLAs to switch to the BJP and even labelling him “nikamma” (useless).
Since the Congress won Rajasthan in 2018, its top two in the state never got along but their relationship hit rock-bottom when Mr Pilot was summoned by the Special Operations Group, which reports to Mr Gehlot, to answer questions on the alleged bribing of MLAs.