The first round of the political battle in Rajasthan went to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday. His bete noire Sachin Pilot was dismissed from the posts of Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress chief, while two of his close associates, Vishwendra Singh and Ramesh Meena, were sacked from the cabinet.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is presently in a strong position. He has the party high command behind him, and he has managed to garner the support of most of the Congress MLAs, whom he has kept in a resort. All the heads of state Youth Congress, NSUI and Seva Dal have been replaced and Pilot’s supporters have been shown the door.
With this, the Congress high command has effectively shut the doors on Sachin Pilot and his supporters. Pro-Gehlot MLAs passed a resolution calling for strict action against the rebels and immediately after Chief Minister Gehlot went to Raj Bhavan to submit letters for dismissal of the three ministers. Simultaneously, the nameplate and posters of Sachin Pilot displayed at the state Congress office were immediately removed.
Pilot reacted on Twitter saying “you can harass Truth, but you cannot defeat Truth”. The Congress high command alleged that Pilot was trying to dislodge the Congress government in Rajasthan while entering into a conspiracy with the BJP.
Soon after Pilot’s exit, there was a flurry of meetings in BJP camp. The party demanded an immediate trial of strength in the assembly, while its senior leaders were in touch with Pilot to persuade him to join the BJP. There were reports that two MLAs belonging to the Bharatiya Tribal Party have been kept under police surveillance. The party had initially support Gehlot, but later decided to stay neutral during the floor test. Several leaders of the Congress “youth brigade”, Jitin Prasada, Shashi Tharoor and Priya Dutt in particular, tweeted to say that the exit of Sachin Pilot could have been avoided.
Questions are being asked on why Sachin Pilot revolted against the Congress high command. Pilot was finding himself uncomfortable. He was beginning to realize that his very existence in Rajasthan politics was being eroded by the Gehlot camp. He was Deputy Chief Minister only in name. In reality, he had been completely sidelined in administrative matters. That is when he decided to revolt, just like his former associate Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh.
Scindia and Pilot are not the only two leaders who are unhappy with the Congress dispensation. They are several more among the next generation of leaders – Jitin Prasada, Deependra Hooda, Milind Deora, Shashi Tharoor – to name a few. Most of them were part of Team Rahul during his initial days as party chief, but now they find themselves completely sidelined. These young leaders were toiling hard to project the party as the New Congress headed by Rahul Gandhi, but their efforts went in vain.
The main challenge now is not before Sachin Pilot, but before Rahul Gandhi. It is he who has to chalk out his future road map in the party. One of Pilot’s close associates, Vishwendra Singh tweeted an evocative Urdu couplet after his dismissal: “Kaat kar meri zubaan, jeh raha hai wo zaalim, ab tujhe ijaazat hai, haal-e-dil sunane ki”. (After slashing off my tongue, the tyrant says, you are now allowed to speak). This effectively sums up the mood in the Sachin Pilot camp.
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