Congress employs KC Venugopal to broker peace between Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot

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Sachin Pilot’s firm and clear message this morning that he is “not joining the BJP” has got the Congress working behind the scenes to bring about a possible rapprochement between Ashok Gehlot and him.

It may appear that the party went too far when it sacked him as deputy chief minister and the Rajasthan party chief, but KC Venugopal, the key general secretary, organisation, is making a last-ditch attempt at fixing things.

Hindustan Times has learnt that Venugopal is trying to convince chief minister Ashok Gehlot to try to bury differences with his former Number 2.

Gehlot, however, does not appear too keen and wants his detractor to be expelled immediately for “anti-party” activities. Venugopal arrived in Jaipur on Monday and is at the moment locked in meetings at the Fairmont hotel, the site of the second Congress legislature party meeting. He is also, one Congressman said, in touch with the Pilot’s side.

The former deputy chief minister also struck a conciliatory note this morning when he told Hindustan Times that he is not going to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I am not joining BJP. Those saying that are just trying to lower me in Gandhis’ eyes,” he told Hindustan Times. ``There are various people who want to do that and they have a motive to do that and it’s just not true.’’

Sachin Pilot also cancelled a press conference scheduled for today, setting off speculation that things may have changed since last night when the party charged him with being a part of BJP’s conspiracy to bring down the Congress government in Rajasthan. Pilot’s only response was “Truth may be harassed, but can’t be defeated.’’

The Congress had removed Pilot as Rajasthan Congress chief on Tuesday. He was also dropped by chief minister Ashok Gehlot from the cabinet after a meeting of the Congress’ legislature party meeting(CLP). Two more of his loyalists were expelled from the cabinet: Ramesh Meena and Vishvendra Singh.

Rajasthan education minister Govind Singh Dotasra was named the new Congress chief in the desert state. The party also sacked Mukesh Bhakar and Rakesh Pareek as presidents of frontal organisations Youth Congress and Sewa Dal, respectively.

The crisis in Rajasthan unit reached a breaking point when Pilot received a notice from the special operations group (SOG) of Rajasthan police to record his statement regarding the alleged attempt to topple the Congress government in the state. He, along with his MLAs, has been campin in Delhi since Saturday.And alleged that the Gehlot government does not have the numbers.

Swinging into action, the grand old party immediately deputed two senior leaders to resolve the crisis and bring Pilot and the other rebels back into the fold. But the efforts did not bear fruit as Pilot stayed away from the two CLP meetings called by the party on Monday and Tuesday.

Then came his dismissal from the cabinet and the charge that he was “conspiring” with the BJP to destabilise the government.

On Tuesday, 101 legislators - in a 200-member strong assembly - attended the CLP meeting at the Fairmont hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur, which included 10 independent legislators and two from Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and one from the Communist Party of India (Marxist); the other CPIM legislator was unwell. However, in the afternoon, the two BTP legislators left the hotel, and went home, saying they would take a call on supporting a political party at an “appropriate” time.

It remains to be seen how the next chapter in this drama unfolds.

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