The Congress claimed to have resolved the crisis in Rajasthan caused by irreconcilable differences between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot though the contours of the agreement were not revealed.
After almost a four-hour discussion, Congress general secretary in charge of the organisation K.C. Venugopal, flanked by Gehlot and Pilot, said: “Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi had a discussion with Gehlot ji and Sachin ji. We have decided to fight the state election unitedly. Both the leaders have agreed to the formula.”
Venugopal refused to give details but asserted that the two leaders have left it to the high command. Neither Gehlot nor Pilot spoke, indicating that the agreement being claimed by Venugopal may not have crystallised yet. Kharge and Rahul heard all the aspects of the problem between the two and might have assured both leaders to find a middle path.
Gehlot and Rahul were closeted with Kharge and some other leaders since 6pm while Pilot reached the venue around 8.20pm. Kharge and Rahul sat with Pilot separately after that while Rajasthan in-charge Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Gehlot were asked to wait in a different room. This indicated that the offer to be given to Pilot was first discussed with Gehlot.
While there is no possibility of the removal of Gehlot as the chief minister at this late stage, the Congress leadership’s sole concern is Pilot’s response to this proposition. The Congress is keen to retain Pilot in the party amid speculation about his plan to float his own outfit before the election. Sources close to Pilot, however, dismissed the speculation saying he would not betray the Gandhi family.
Kharge also presided over a meeting on Madhya Pradesh where the focus was on the sops the party intends to offer in the form of “Vachan Patra”. Though speculation of differences between Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath dominates the political discourse in the state, the situation is not as bad as Rajasthan. There is a broad understanding that Kamal Nath will again be projected as the chief minister candidate.
While Kamal Nath said after the meeting that strategy and issues were discussed, Rahul chose to play the mind game by claiming that the Congress will win 150 out of 230 Assembly seats. Rahul referred to Karnataka and said the Congress victory was certain. The Congress has decided to follow the Karnataka model in Madhya Pradesh by keeping the focus on the welfare agenda and corruption of the BJP government.
While the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government has faced several charges of corruption, what has emboldened the Congress is the destruction caused by the storm in Ujjain’s Mahakaal temple corridor. Though the corridor was opened barely months ago by the Prime Minister, idols were uprooted by the storm, prompting the Congress to allege corruption in this case as well. Like Karnataka, the Congress has already started talking of 50 per cent commission here.
The Congress leadership also held a meeting with Delhi leaders on Monday where the dominant view was opposed to any understanding with Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP. The local Congress leaders also opposed any support to the Kejriwal government on the issue of the central ordinance on a power-sharing arrangement.