Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan chief minister
JAIPUR: Chief minister Ashok Gehlot claimed that his former deputy Sachin Pilot had started plotting the fall of his government from its very inception.
He admitted that they “were not on talking terms for the last one-and-a-half years”. “A minister never talks to his chief minister, nor seeks his advice and no dialogue… In democracy, even arch rivals talk. The beauty of democracy is dialogue… an essential ingredient of democracy. The news of the last one-and-a-half years is sufficient for a book,” he said while speaking to a news channel on the latest showdown with Pilot.
He claimed Sachin has been playing the victim card and had unnecessarily made the SOG notice to him an issue. Notices were issued to 10-12 MLAs, he said.
“Our party complained to the SOG that BJP was hatching a conspiracy to topple the government. We had not taken his name, but he was giving clarification. Why? Now it has become evident. Who is playing host to the MLAs. Who are the lawyers appearing for them?”
Gehlot alleged that the shifting of MLAs to Gurugram and Manesar was planned before the Rajya Sabha elections. “During the Rajya Sabha elections, I had to take the MLAs to a hotel and keep them there for 10 days. I felt bad about it. Then it was alleged that I had done it to show the deputy CM in poor light.” He said he got a tip-off then that the MLAs would leave the city. “The collectors were alerted and I asked all MLAs to reach Jaipur by next day evening. I am happy that almost all MLAs reached Jaipur by evening.”
“When all MLAs reached Jaipur, he started giving statements that they were shifted to the hotel for no reason. But I had proof even then as well as now,” he said.
When asked about why Pilot was not made CM in Rajasthan like PCC president Amarinder Singh in Punjab, Bhupesh Bhagel in Chattisgarh and Kamal Nath in MP, Gehlot said “the decision was left to the high command”.
“The majority of the MLAs was in my favour and the situation in other states and Rajasthan was different. In Rajasthan, the public wanted me as chief minister. Once a decision was taken by the high command following due process, it was never challenged.” On the present crisis, he said, “Once over ambition takes over, your thought process takes a back seat.”
Gehlot said there were no old and new guard in politics. “Should all leaders who are about 60 retire? Earlier, 60 was considered old age, but now life expectancy has increased. What will we do if not be in politics?”
He said unlike the old generation, the new leaders have not gone through the grind. “Indira Gandhi’s defeat was a big challenge for the party in our time. But we struggled under NSUI, Youth Congress.”
He said his generation was groomed to withstand difficult times. “We have seen many difficult times. But I am not against youth. I have always fought for the youth in the AICC,” he claimed. “The party is passing through a difficult time and the youth should work to strengthen the party and face challenges posed by BJP.”
When asked about his reaction if Sachin comes back, Gehlot said, “Sachin was just three years into politics when he first became an MP. If he comes back, I will give him a hug. I have 40 years’ relations with his family. Politics and personal relations are two separate things.”
When asked how many MLAs he had, he said, “I have the support of 200 MLAs. I have worked for all sections and taken everybody along.”
Replying to a question if young leaders leaving the party puts a question mark on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, he blamed it on “the thought process of these leaders”. He said it was the RSS-BJP strategy to target the leader, show him in a poor light and lead to the collapse of the party. “This has been tried in the case of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as well,” he said.