After months of exchanging piercing attacks with rival Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has labelled the feud an “internal matter” of the Congress party as it struggles to cobble up a united front for the state elections, just a few months away.
“Recently, in Delhi, we spoke to each other, monitored by Rahul Gandhi, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal, and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa,” Mr Gehlot said in an interview with NDTV.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about it right now. When we have sat down to talk once, if I now say something it might be misunderstood,” he said, requesting to “close the topic”.
He did, however, assure that he was ready even now to act against former Chief Minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje — a demand repeatedly raised by Mr Pilot, who has accused the state government of going soft on her in corruption charges.
“All the allegations we made against her (Ms Raje) have been taken to the courts. I will act if someone, even a random individual, can point out what we have left pending,” he said.
The Chief Minister, clarified his comment from last month when he claimed Vasundhara Raje and two other BJP leaders had played a role in saving his government during the 2020 revolt by his party MLAs led by Mr Pilot.
“Kailash Meghwal had raised the topic of how I had once refused to help topple the BJP government of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and stated how Rajasthan has not had a culture of horse-trading,” Mr Gehlot said.
“Responding to that, I let slip that Vasundhara Raje ji also did not believe in horse-trading. She had not said it to me herself, but her MLAs suggested so when they met me,” he said.
“That comment was twisted to claim that I credited her for saving my government during the 2020 revolt). People within her party tried to make it an issue against her,” he added.
Mr Gehlot had posed for photographs with Mr Pilot last week after a four-hour meeting with the Congress party’s leadership in Delhi in an effort to project their unity that left many questions unanswered.
Though he said he was ready to work together with his rival, Ashok Gehlot closed the appearance with a parting shot, urging leaders to be “patient” and wait for their opportunity to serve, suggesting that his rift with Mr Pilot remained alive and kicking.
Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot have been tangled in a power tussle since the Congress came to power in Rajasthan in 2018.
Though Mr Pilot agreed to play second fiddle to the veteran, he revolted in 2020 and camped for days near Delhi but ended his strike after the Gandhis assured him of a solution.
The rebellion fizzled out as 80-plus MLAs chose to stay with Mr Gehlot. At no point has Mr Pilot been able to produce more than 20 MLAs in his support.
Last year, some 72 MLAs resigned in protest against the Congress’s move to make Mr Gehlot party president, which would mean his replacement in Rajasthan, possibly by Mr Pilot.
Earlier this year, Mr Pilot launched a solo campaign for the Rajasthan polls soon after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state while being called a gaddar (traitor) and nikamma (worthless) among other things by Mr Gehlot.