New Delhi, October 19
In a rare public move that could have far-reaching political consequences in Rajasthan, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday defended predecessor Vasundhara Raje, telling the BJP not to punish her because of him.
“Do not punish her because of me. That would be injustice to her,” said Gehlot, whose recent comments in Dholpur had landed Raje in the eye of the storm.
Plays down rift with Pilot
New Delhi: Refuting reports attributing the delay in the distribution of Congress tickets to aspirants in Rajasthan to his rift with Sachin Pilot, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday claimed there was complete unity in the Rajasthan unit of the Congress. Talking to reporters at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi, Gehlot said he had not objected to the candidature of any MLA of the Pilot camp and would continue to follow the policy. Gehlot said the opposition in Rajasthan was upset about the fact that infighting had not broken out in the Congress over ticket distribution. TNS
Gehlot had said Raje helped save his government in 2020 when then Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and some Congress MLAs rebelled. By today’s statement, Gehlot openly signalled sympathies for Raje, who continues to be sidelined in the state BJP. Gehlot also said today that he wanted to leave the CM's position but the CM’s post does not leave him.
What Rajasthan CM had said
Gehlot had said Raje helped save his government in 2020 when then Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and some Congress MLAs rebelled.
“I want to leave the CM's post but this post is not leaving me nor will it leave me I think," Gehlot said in clear indications to Pilot, who has been harbouring CM ambitions ever since the Congress won Rajasthan in 2018. Gehlot also said today that in the Congress the leader who becomes a CM candidate never becomes the CM.
“So it is best to never be a CM candidate," Gehlot said, adding he had repeatedly been named CM by the Gandhis.
Gehlot also said there were no differences in the Congress over ticket distribution noting, “We have decided to forgive and forget after the rebels returned.”
Friction in the party’s ranks, however, remains palpable with Pilot not attending the party's central election panel meeting to discuss Rajasthan candidates yesterday. Gehlot further said the tickets of the majority of Pilot loyalists and rebel MLAs had been cleared.
While the CM clearly underlined his future political ambitions should the Congress win the upcoming polls, his comments on Raje created ripples in political circles today.
Defending Raje, Gehlot recalled an episode of the 1990s when he was state Congress chief, BJP’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the CM and some BJP MLAs had decided to topple the state government.
“Shekhawat ji was in the US at that time for a third bypass surgery. BJP MLAs came to me and said they had decided to topple the government. I told them clearly that this is not correct. I even told then PM PV Narasimha Rao that this is not the right thing to do. Later when my government was in crisis in 2020, some Raje loyalist MLAs told me that she also believes in the same principle that democratically elected governments should not be toppled. I quoted this in Dholpur,” Gehlot said, explaining his previous remarks on Raje.
Pilot has been accusing Gehlot of going soft on Raje and on the erstwhile BJP government’s corruption. In 2020, the Gehlot government had asked Jagannath Pahadia, Rajasthan’s first SC Chief Minister (of the Congress) to vacate his government bungalow after the high court ordered vacation. No such notice was served on Raje, who too, as a former CM, was occupying a government bungalow.
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