The strained relations between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot is well known. They have embarrassed the grand old party and its bosses on several occasions in the last three years with their stinging attacks against each other.
The tussle between the two top leaders of Rajasthan is rooted in Pilot’s failed 2020 rebellion against Gehlot.
Ever since, Gehlot has been unsapring in his attacks on Pilot – calling the former deputy CM a “niklamma, nakaara” and even a traitor. Pilot has returned favour with fierce attacks on the Gehlot government over issues of governance. He sat on a fast, launched a yatra to demand action against corruption, much to the embarrassment of the grand old party.
Several attempts at truce could only ensure that the two appeared together with central leaders in a show of unity. However, they never spoke in support of each other openly.
So, when Gehlot defended Pilot over BJP leader Amit Malviya’s attacks on Rajesh Pilot, it was a welcome change for the beleaugured party in the run up to the assembly elections due later this year.
Taking to his official handle on X, CM Gehlot said, “Congress leader Rajesh Pilot was a brave pilot of the Indian Air Force. By insulting them, the BJP is insulting the sacrifice of the Indian Air Force. The whole country should condemn this.”
He was responding to August 13 remark BJP’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya who had claimed that Congress leaders Rajesh Pilot and Suresh Kalmadi were flying the IAF fighter, which bombed Aizawl on March 5, 1966.
“Rajesh Pilot and Suresh Kalmadi were flying the Indian Air Force planes that bombed Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, on 5 March 1966. Later both became MPs on Congress tickets and ministers in the government. It is clear that Indira Gandhi gave a place in politics as a reward, and gave respect to those who carried out air raids on their own people in the Northeast,” Amit Malviya posted on X.
Sachin Pilot was quick to refute Malviya’s claims and said the BJP leader had quoted wrong dates and facts on the incident as his father was not commissioned into the Indian Air Force on the date of bombing March 5, 1966.
Taking to his handle on X, Sachin Pilot wrote, “You have the wrong dates, wrong facts. Yes, as an Indian Air Force pilot, my late father did drop bombs. But that was on erstwhile East Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and not as you claim, on Mizoram on the 5th of March 1966. He was commissioned into the IAF only on 29th October 1966! (Certificate attached) Jai hind and a happy Independence Day.”
The issue of Mizoram bombing was raked up by Prime Minister Modi in his address in the Lok Sabha during no-confidence motion debate. PM Modi had said, “On March 5, 1966, Congress had the Air Force attack helpless citizens in Mizoram. Congress should answer if it was India’s air force or any other country’s. Were those people of Mizoram not the citizens of my country? Was their security not the responsibility of the Union government?”