With seven months to go for the Rajasthan Assembly election, there is fresh trouble for the Congress with former deputy Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot announcing a day-long fast seeking probe into the alleged corruption cases during the BJP rule, which the Ashok Gehlot government failed to undertake in over four years.
While making the announcement, Mr. Pilot asserted that every political party, to hold the electorate’s confidence, had to provide evidence. “Action wasn’t taken [by the Gehlot government] on corruption by the previous Vasundhara Raje government over the years. While in Opposition, we had promised that an inquiry would be conducted into the mines scam of ₹45,000 crore,” Mr. Pilot said at a press conference at his residence here, announcing a hunger strike on Tuesday.
“With six-seven months left for the elections, the opponents can build a narrative that we colluded with them. Therefore, action will have to be taken soon so that the Congress workers feel that there is no difference between our words and actions,” he said. Mr. Pilot said he would observe a day-long fast at Shaheed Smarak on April 11 to press for his demand.
April 11 is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, who belonged to the Saini community, the same community which Mr. Gehlot represents.
This day-long hunger strike has to be seen in the context of the turmoil in Rajasthan Congress that began with Mr. Pilot’s rebellion in July 2020 against Mr. Gehlot. Mr. Pilot was the State unit president in 2018, at the time of the Congress’s victory in the State and felt that he was the rightful claimant for the Chief Minister’s post. The party believed that it had found a solution to this festering problem, when it decided that Mr. Gehlot would contest the election for Congress president. But before filing his nomination, the high command expected him to resign from the Chief Minister’s post paving the way for Mr. Pilot. Mr. Gehlot outfoxed the Delhi leadership, when a section of party held a parallel meeting submitting their resignations rather than attending official Congress Legislative Party where then general secretaries Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken were present as observers on September 25th.
To a pointed question, on what Mr. Pilot would do, if the government once again failed to take the crucial step of instituting investigations, he said, “There is no reason why my demand won’t be accepted. It is our [Congress] government, agencies work under us, the allegations against the BJP government is based on facts and we have made a public commitment towards the probe.”
Reacting to the announcement, the Congress leadership in Delhi issued a prosaic statement, without stating the context. “The Congress government in Rajasthan with Ashok Gehlot as CM has implemented a large number of schemes and taken many new initiatives that have impacted the people profoundly. This has given the State a leadership position in governance in our country,” the statement issued by party general secretary (organisation) Jairam Ramesh said. Balancing this assertion, the statement then went on to emphasis the importance of organisation, which worked together for an “outstanding” success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. “Later in the year, the Congress will seek a renewed mandate from the people on the strength of these landmark achievements and the collective efforts of our organisation,” it said.
The Delhi leadership’s hopes of “collective efforts” from both sides look bleak for now, since Mr. Pilot in the press conference did not leave any doubt that his hunger strike was aimed at Mr. Gehlot. He also showed videos of statements of Mr. Gehlot in the Assembly and outside in which he had levelled corruption allegations against the previous BJP government.
“When we were in Opposition, at that time we had said that we will investigate corruption in the BJP government. I wrote a letter to CM Ashok Gehlot on March 28, 2022 and on November, 2 2022, but did not get any answer,” Mr. Pilot said.