Rahul Gandhi is “keen on keeping the doors open for Sachin Pilot”, sources in the Congress told NDTV today, hours after the rebel leader declared that he was not joining the BJP and rumors were spread to “malign him with the Gandhis”. The party has also reined in Ashok Gehlot, asking him to tone down his statements against his former deputy, the sources said. The admonition, though, came much after Mr Gehlot claimed he had proof of Mr Pilot’s horse trading with the BJP.
Mr Gandhi has had no direct contact with Mr Pilot yet, though he has spoken to him through emissaries once over the weekend, Congress sources said. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had touched base with him thrice.
Much now depends on Mr Pilot. But the party — challenged the rebel leader to stop fraternizing with the BJP and give up the hospitality of a BJP-ruled state — has no indication about his next move, sources said. Any move to script a homecoming of Mr Pilot will involve a cooling-off period, sources earlier said.
The Congress action has been swift against the key Rajasthan leader, who had been camping out in Delhi for the better part of the weekend. Not only was he stripped of posts in the party and the government, the party also initiated disqualification proceedings in the assembly against him and his loyalist MLAs.
Today, after his declaration that he is not joining the BJP, the party challenged the rebel leader to stop fraternizing with the BJP and give up the hospitality of a BJP-ruled state.
“We want to tell Pilot that if you don’t want to go to the BJP then don’t accept Haryana’s hospitality. If you don’t want to go to the BJP, stop talking to any BJP leader or member,” senior leader Randeep Surjewala said.
In the evening, Ashok Gehlot accused Mr Pilot of being implicated in the BJP horse trading. The Chief Minister, whose government was pushed to the brink of collapse following Mr Pilot’s rebellion, said, “The former PCC chief was involved in dealings with BJP. I have proof of horse-trading”.
“Money was offered. And who gave the clarification that nothing was happening? Those who were themselves part of the conspiracy are giving clarifications,” Mr Gehlot told reporters, mentioning a figure of Rs 20 crore.
A swift reality check followed from Team Pilot. Two MLAs who switched to the Congress from Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party at Mr Gehlot’s behest, questioned how much money they were paid.
With the rebel squad looking significantly weakened, Mr Gehlot’s team said the government is safe as he has the support of 106 MLAs, up from yesterday when the Congress appeared to be barely at the half-way mark in the 200-member assembly.