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HomerajasthanPilot comes out in support of Gehlot's son, refuses to bow out...

Pilot comes out in support of Gehlot's son, refuses to bow out of race for CM post

Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Thursday came out in defence of Ashok Gehlot, whose son was slapped with an Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons, but refused to leave the race for the post of Rajasthan Chief Minister to his bete noire.

Hours after Chief Minister Gehlot addressed media in Jaipur protesting the ED action against state party chief Govind Dotasra and his son Vaibhav, the party fielded Pilot in Delhi to “condemn” the “suspicious” act intended to “intimidate” opponents ahead of Assembly elections.

In a 25-minute press conference, Pilot referred to raids at Dotasra’s residence and ED summons to Gehlot’s son Vaibhav in a 12-year-old case, stating that no Congress leader was scared of an “impartial” probe. He claimed that the BJP was convinced of losing elections in Rajasthan and had therefore resorted to taking action in old cases.

“We will fight this with vigour. The BJP has a habit of misusing central agencies as a weapon to target, harass and intimidate Opposition leaders. This action is coming just 29 days ahead of the Rajasthan elections. They are raking up old cases. Intimidation won’t work,” Pilot said.

With the political messaging behind the party fielding him not lost, reporters queried Pilot about Chief Minister Gehlot’s remarks a couple days prior at the Congress headquarters. Gehlot had said that he wanted to “leave the chair,” but the chair was “not leaving him”, indicating that he was not going to bow out of the race without a fight.

“We all learn from the past and act accordingly in the present. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future. Our collective objective is to win the elections. What responsibility will be given to a particular person will be decided later,” Pilot said, refusing to endorse the message that Gehlot will be the automatic choice for the post if the party returns to power in Rajasthan.

Pilot provided indirect responses when asked about his ambitions, hinting that he still aspired to become the Chief Minister. He stated that, in accordance with the party’s standard procedure nationwide, the Chief Minister would be selected by the legislature party and the party’s High Command after the party secures a majority.

Recalling a conversation he had with Mallikarjun Kharge when the latter was trying to mediate peace between the warring leaders, Pilot said the Congress President was clear about the need for putting up a united fight.

“He told me about collective leadership – combining experience, talent and youth. We have to move forward. Forget the past, we need to move forward,” Pilot said.

When shown an old image of Gehlot riding pillion on a motorcycle with Pilot during the 2018 campaign and Gehlot later taking the lead, Pilot responded, “Now we have electric vehicles as well. The chair is not important. The nation stands at a critical juncture, and the party will determine who will be on the motorcycle and who will be in the pilot’s seat.”

(Published 26 October 2023, 17:24 IST)

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