Sachin Pilot repeatedly asked to be made Chief Minister of Rajasthan within one year and refused to meet with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi unless they were ready to accept his demand, sources close to party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said on Friday.
The statement came as a rebuttal to one from Mr Pilot’s camp that he was unceremoniously sacked as Deputy Chief Minister three hours after a phone conversation on Tuesday with Ms Vadra who has been trying to convince the 42-year-old to walk back his mutiny.
According to sources close to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sachin Pilot wanted a public announcement that he would be made Chief Minister and said there was no point in meeting with the Gandhis if that could not be promised.
It was only after this “dealbreaker” demand was conveyed to the Congress leadership that the party decided to remove Mr Pilot as Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister and chief of its state unit, the sources said.
Members of Mr Pilot’s circle earlier in the day had told NDTV that he was “aggrieved” at being sacked soon after the phone call with Ms Vadra – among the many reach-outs by the Gandhis following his revolt on Sunday against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Mr Pilot “spoke to Priyanka Gandhi two days ago and was given a patient hearing”, said the sources. When he discussed his grievances, Priyanka Gandhi said “she would speak to Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi”.
“How can the Congress talk of rapprochement when it is acting against me?” Mr Pilot reportedly said. He is “not sure if he can trust Congress assurances anymore,” said sources.
“On one hand, the Congress talks of ‘doors open’ and on the other hand I am sacked and disqualification notice sent. I am attacked by Ashok Gehlot,” sources quoted the furious leader as saying. Priyanka Gandhi reportedly phoned Mr Pilot on Wednesday as well.
A section of the Congress believes Mr Pilot went “too far” by taking the party to court on Thursday along with 18 rebel MLAs. Team Pilot has challenged disqualification notices which ask them to explain why they defied party orders to attend meetings.
Sources close to Mr Pilot questioned how he could attend the MLAs’ meets at the Chief Minister’s house when he was aggrieved.
Mr Gehlot, who has repeatedly accused Mr Pilot of conspiring with the BJP to bring down his government, may be in for huge trouble if a few more MLAs join the 20-strong rebel camp. The BJP has 73 MLAs and needs around 30 more to claim power.
On Friday morning, the Congress alleged that a Union Minister and two rebel MLAs were caught on tape making deals and plotting to dislodge the Ashok Gehlot government. Two FIRs were filed shortly after the Congress read out transcripts of the audio, which emerged online yesterday.
Mr Pilot’s camp said he has “not heard the sting tapes” and called the tapes part of the Chief Minister’s strategy to justify moves to disqualify the rebels. If the rebels are disqualified, the majority mark in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly will go down, giving Mr Gehlot an advantage.
Team Pilot underscored once again today that there was “no question” of Mr Pilot joining the BJP. “Rajasthan is my *karmabhoomi*, my work is here,” Mr Pilot was quoted by the sources as saying, a reference to Congress leaders in Delhi suggesting a national role for him.
“It is unclear what role the Congress can offer outside Rajasthan,” said sources close to Mr Pilot.