Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot jointly travelled to attend anti-farm laws rallies and were seen sharing a helicopter ride on February 27.
The development that comes days after the Rajasthan Congress withdrew the Special Leave Petition in Supreme Court regarding disqualification of rebel party MLAs indicates a reconciliatory note between the two leaders, whose turf war had pushed the state into a political crisis last year.
The tussle between the factions led by the two leaders was evident until a fortnight ago when Pilot was not allowed to speak during a public event which was attended by former party chief Rahul Gandhi. Also, a ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’, organised by Pilot’s supporters in eastern Rajasthan reportedly had the Gehlot camp fuming.
But, the two leaders addressed back-to-back rallies in Bikaner and Chittorgarh districts and posed together for cameras, along with other Congress leaders from the state, on February 27 after a gap of almost one year.
So why is there a new-found bonhomie between the two leaders? Perhaps because of the upcoming state by-elections in four seats. Pilot, it is said, holds sway among voters in at least three of the four constituencies.
The byelections have been necessitated in Sujangarh (Churu), Sahara (Bhilwara), Vallabhnagar (Udaipur), and Rajsamand after the demise of the four MLAs. Congress had won three seats in the last election while Rajsamand was represented by BJP leader Kiran Maheshwari. The schedule of the polls has not been announced yet.
In Udaipur's Vallabhnagar seat was represented earlier by Congress MLA Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was considered a Pilot supporter. Congress is considering to field Shaktawat's wife on the seat, according to the sources,
In Bhilwara's Sahada constituency, the Gujjar community comprises a chunk of the electorate. Pilot comes from the Gujjar community and hence his role will be important.
In Sujjangarh too, former MLA Master Bhanwar Lal Meghwal was closely associated with Pilot, Congress may field Meghwal's son for the seat.
“By-elections at four places will be held soon. All of us will have to work collectively to make Congress candidates win,” Pilot said at one of the rallies on February 27.
Congress chief whip in the Rajasthan Assembly, Mahesh Joshi, last week moved to withdraw the Special Leave Petition in Supreme Court regarding disqualification of rebel party MLAs,
Joshi had moved an application before Rajasthan Assembly Speaker in July last year, asking him to disqualify 19 Congress MLAs led by Sachin Pilot as they had violated the whip.