Categories: INDIA NEWS

Pilot versus Gehlot tussle returns to stage, at farmers’ protest meet

“Pilot sahib was president. State elections were held, ahead of Lok Sabha elections. We got 100 seats. At first, there were 99 then it became 100 and now 101. Someone does the hard work…,” Congress MLA and former Rajasthan tourism minister Vishvendra Singh left the sentence incomplete, a large smile etched on his face, as he addressed a farmers’ protest rally on Friday.

The gathering at the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Kothkhawada near Jaipur cheered and applauded as Singh smiled. Sitting on the stage was former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, the chief guest at the meet, which was organised in protest against the Centre’s three farm laws.

“Samajhdar ho (you are intelligent),” said a grinning Singh to the gathering, as they cheered on and raised slogans of “Sachin Pilot zindabad”. After a brief pause, he said, “You are much more intelligent than me, what speech can I give. Before I could say my point, you grasped it.”

During last year’s political crisis in Rajasthan, it was a common grouse of the MLAs loyal to Pilot that despite he being the state Congress president when the party was voted to power, he was not made the chief minister. Singh was among the 18 Congress MLAs who had sided with Pilot during his power tussle with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

Apart from several of the 18 loyalist MLAs, two more Congress legislators – Dantaramgarh MLA Virendra Singh and Niwai MLA Prashant Bairwa – attended the rally, which was the third such programme organised by Pilot’s supporters within the Congress.

Bairwa was considered a Pilot supporter but had not sided with him during the political crisis and instead stayed with the legislators loyal to Chief Minister Gehlot. Before taking his seat on the stage, he greeted Pilot.

In his address, Pilot kept to the contentious farm laws and the protests.

“Thousands of farmers are sitting in dharna around Delhi and in the entire country since the past 2-3 months. We have to understand that the three farm laws brought by the Centre are not only against the farmers but are also against the middle class, youth and the country’s citizens. We want to challenge the central government through this mahapanchayat that the farmer and youth of the country are standing together,” he said.

He referred to the recent visits of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the programmes being conducted by Priyanka Gandhi to highlight that the Congress is raising its voice against the farm laws.

While other speakers were scathing in their criticism of the BJP government at the Centre, they did not lose any opportunity to hail Pilot’s contribution to the Congress party along with references to his father, late Rajesh Pilot.

Moments before former minister Singh’s speech, veteran Congress MLA Hemaram Choudhary heaped praises on Pilot, saying that on their way to Chaksu from Jaipur, people assembled in large numbers to welcome him. “These are all signs that today Rajasthan’s farmers, youth and everyone want to take the state forward under Pilot sahib’s leadership and also want the solution to the problems faced by farmers,” he said.

MLA Mukesh Bhakar, also a Pilot loyalist, said when the Congress was reduced to 21 MLAs, Pilot took over as the party president and worked to strengthen it.

Organised by Chaksu MLA Ved Prakash Solanki, who was among the 18 Pilot loyalist legislators, the event also passed three resolutions – withdrawal of the three farm laws, a law passed on MSP and reducing the prices of petrol, diesel and gas.

In the state’s political circles, Pilot’s rallies are being seen as display of strength by supporters of the former deputy chief minister, whose bitter tussle with Chief Minister Gehlot resulted in a month-long political crisis in Rajasthan last year. While Congress leaders loyal to Gehlot have distanced themselves from the Kisan Mahapanchayats, Pilot’s supporters have been busy making arrangements for the programmes in their constituencies.

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