Amid the ongoing power tussle between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his bete noire Sachin Pilot, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday invoked internal democracy in the party and said differences in views were not an issue until it causes major damage.
With Gehlot sitting beside him at a press conference here, Gandhi was asked a host of questions, including on three Gehlot loyalists getting a show cause notice over defiance against a legislature party meeting in September.
Responding to a question on why action had not been taken on the three Gehlot loyalists, Gandhi said, “There is no indecision…these things happen. There is no major problem in our party, there is no confusion.”
Asked about the Gehlot-Pilot feud, he said his view is that not only in Rajasthan but in other states as well, there is a need to make the common party worker and the lower level leader participate and be listened to.
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“These statements (by leaders) are played up by the media but there is clarity in our structure and there is no confusion,” Gandhi said.
“We are not a party of dictatorship, ours is not a fascist party. We are fine with some discussion. If there are differing views, there is no problem,” he said.
This is not just about Rajasthan but in all states, it is like this and at the central level of the party also, it functions like that, he added.
“We tolerate this, but it should not result in any major damage. If that happens, we also take action. Generally, our ideology is that if our party people want to speak out we don’t shut them up,” the former Congress chief said.
Asked about who’ll lead the party in the state polls, he said, “Ask (Mallikarjun) Kharge ji. He is the party president.”
On Congress’ poll prospects in the state in light of the recent Gehlot-Pilot spat, Gandhi said, “Look, you people make election predictions. But I can tell you that there has been an overwhelming response here and our workers have unbelievable strength. What I said earlier, if we use our workers, our lower level leaders, then we will win the elections very easily.”
“Those who work for us, those who fight for us, if we give them the right place, then there will be a massive victory, a sweep,” he added.
Gandhi praised the Congress organisation in the state and said the yatra had probably got the best reception in this state.
“When we started our press friends said the yatra would be a success in the south only, but when it succeeded in Maharashtra, they said it would not succeed in the Hindi belt. When we came to the Hindi belt, then they said that it succeeded in Madhya Pradesh, but will not succeed in Rajasthan as there is factionalism,” he said.
“You clearly saw that lakhs of people came out in Rajasthan in support of the yatra. Our organisation worked well and probably the best reception we got was in Rajasthan,” Gandhi said.
Ahead of the yatra entering Rajasthan, a crisis had erupted in the Congress with Gehlot dubbing his former deputy Sachin Pilot a “gaddar” (traitor) and saying he cannot replace him as he had revolted against the party in 2020 and tried to topple the government.
Pilot had hit back, saying it is unbecoming of someone like Gehlot’s stature to use such language and added such mud-slinging would not help and it was the duty of everyone in the organisation to strengthen the party to help bring a Congress government again in Rajasthan.
The escalation of the Gehlot-Pilot rift just ahead of the entry of the yatra into the desert state had put the party in a spot but K C Venugopal’s visit to the state last week calmed tempers and in a show of unity, both Pilot and Gehlot posed for the cameras along with the AICC general secretary.
Gehlot and Pilot have been at loggerheads over chief ministership ever since the Congress won the state polls in 2018.
While Gehlot has been saying Pilot’s 2020 rebellion cannot be ignored and he does not enjoy the support of a majority of Congress MLAs, the Pilot camp has been claiming the legislators want a change in the leadership.
Gehlot has been saying that the 90 MLAs who had saved the government during Pilot’s rebellion are loyal to the party high command and not to him.