India

"Forget And Forgive": Ashok Gehlot's Call To MLAs As Team Pilot Returns

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met with Congress MLAs staying at a hotel in Jaisalmer last evening

New Delhi/ Jaipur:

Two days after the Congress declared an end to its Rajasthan rebel crisis with a meeting between Sachin Pilot and the Gandhis, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot signaled a climb-down. Ashok Gehlot, who met with Congress MLAs staying at a hotel in Jaisalmer last evening, said they were "naturally upset" after the truce but everyone has to move on. "Forget and forgive, and move on," the Chief Minister declared.

"It is natural for the MLAs to be upset. The manner in which this episode occurred and the way in which they stayed for a month, it was natural. I've explained to them that sometimes we need to be tolerant if we have to serve the nation, state, people and save the democracy," the Chief Minister told reporters.

"We have to forgive mistakes. It is for the sake of democracy. Democracy is in danger. More than 100 MLAs stood by me. That in itself is remarkable. This fight is to save democracy and the BJP failed to do in Rajasthan what it did in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. We will be united for the sake of democracy."

Sachin Pilot dropped his month-long revolt against the Rajasthan Chief Minister after meeting with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday. Yesterday, as he returned to Jaipur for the first time since his rebellion, Ashok Gehlot made it a point to be away, in Jaisalmer.  

The two have yet to meet and are unlikely to even see each other before the special session of the Rajasthan assembly on Friday, say sources. That is, unless Mr Gehlot calls a meeting of Congress legislators to set the stage for a formal reconciliation. But the patch-up in Delhi will take more time to sink in.

The unresolved bitterness between the Congress's Rajasthan top two seeped through in their remarks to the media yesterday. Mr Pilot, who was sacked as Mr Gehlot's deputy and publicly excoriated by him, admitted that he was hurt at being called "nikamma (useless)".

"Some unparliamentary and inappropriate terms were used. Not to say that I was not offended, I am human. I did feel hurt and disappointed, but we have larger mission and name-calling should not be a deterrent," he said.

Mr Gehlot said if the party leadership had decided to forgive the rebel MLAs, he would "give them a warm hug". But he avoided questions on how he would re-embrace a man he had dubbed "nikamma" and corrupt.

Some 100 Congress MLAs who stayed by Mr Gehlot's side throughout the crisis were vocal about their resentment at the way Mr Pilot and 18 more rebels had been allowed a homecoming without reparation.

According to leaders present at the Congress Legislature Party meet at hotel Suryagarh, many MLAs said the rebels "should not have been taken back" and should definitely not be accommodated in party positions and posts.

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Senior Congress leaders from Delhi, including Randeep Singh Surjewala, stepped in to reassure them and even, to an extent, the Chief Minister himself. It was what the high-command wished, they were told.

The Congress MLAs are likely to return today to Jaipur and Fairmont Resort, where they waited out the crisis last month.