JAIPUR: The High Command's effort to send state party in-charge Ajay Maken to patch up the rift in the Rajasthan Congress has suffered a major jolt. While Gehlot and Pilot may no longer be attacking each other in public, their supporters at the grassroots have embarrassingly started clashing.
When Maken went to take feedback from Congress leaders and workers in Ajmer, supporters of Gehlot and Pilot got involved in a clash which forced the police to lathicharge. As a result, at the feedback programme at the Congress headquarters in Jaipur, there was heavy police deployment with several senior police officials present there.
The feedback programme for evaluating the situation of the Gehlot government and the party at the grassroots level in each division of the state has now become a headache for top leaders. With many suspecting that the feedback effort is just a sham, many leaders and workers are said to be upset and factionalism in the state unit is getting worse.
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Amid massive security at the PCC office, Ajay Maken met party leaders from Jaipur, Alwar and Sikar and took detailed feedback from leaders of both the Gehlot and Pilot camps. There were 50 leaders from each district which included MLAs, MPs, party candidates in the past, previous MLAs/MPs and other senior leaders of each district. There was considerable apprehension of a possible clash since the Congress units in Jaipur and Dausa are split down the middle between Gehlot and Pilot factions.
A day earlier, the feedback programme in Ajmer had taken an ugly turn. Ajmer is the constituency from where Sachin Pilot had become an MP and a central minister. The district unit has a large number of his loyalists though the Gehlot camp also has a powerful presence. Maken was holding a meeting with Ajmer leaders inside a hotel, along with PCC Chief Govind Dotasara and Health Minister Raghu Sharma. However, Pilot supporters who were outside soon got restless and not only raised pro-Pilot and anti-Raghu Sharma slogans. The Health Minister who is also an MLA from Ajmer district had switched loyalties from the Pilot to the Gehlot camp last year. Ultimately, the Ajmer police had to disperse those party workers who allegedly tore posters and raised slogans against Sharma on Wednesday.
When a section of party cadres claimed that some workers were detained by the police, Rakesh Pareek, Congress MLA from Masudha, reached the police station and asked to free the workers. Then, along with his supporters, he sat on dharna outside the police station and eventually moved away only after the district police assured that nobody had been arrested and some workers who were tearing posters had only been dispersed as a precautionary step.
Ajay Maken, however, is trying to downplay the incident. While talking to the media, he remarked, “When there is an excess of excitement, such things often happen. There is no rift in our party. We are working hard for better coordination between the government and the party. We will present a detailed report on October 2 in which we will tell the people how our government has been performing.”
When asked why several leaders reportedly asking to meet him in private, Maken said, “I’ve told all the leaders and workers that I am available to them always. If some workers want to give suggestions on how our government can improve, we will be happy to hear them and I take it in a positive spirit.”
However, many from the Gehlot camp are not too happy at laxity being shown to leaders of the Pilot camp as none of them was punished despite their month-long revolt. “It’s very unfair that Ajay Maken or party High Command are listening so much to people who plotted with the BJP in a bid to bring down the Congress government. For a whole month, we had to live in hotels due to the revolt. We are disappointed that those leaders are being given so much importance which we will not tolerate,” said an MLA from the Gehlot camp on condition of anonymity.