On a day of hectic political activity in Jaipur and New Delhi, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, facing rebellion from his deputy CM Sachin Pilot, hurriedly called a meeting of Congress MLAs at his residence on Monday, and then packed them off in buses to a resort in a bid to prevent desertions. Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, P. Chidambaram, spoke to Sachin Pilot and tried to persuade him to call off his political battle against Gehlot.
The number game is still unclear. Though Gehlot claimed the support of 107 MLAs in a house of 200, Pilot managed to keep his camp intact. The BJP called for a floor test in the assembly in order to put an end to the political drama. In a fast-changing scenario, Gehlot seems to have an upper hand in the majority stakes.
Sachin Pilot is insisting on 50 per cent posts for his supporters in the state cabinet and state-run corporations, his continuance as state party chief and ‘full freedom’ in administrative work for him and his supporters.
In order to understand why Sachin Pilot revolted against the party leadership, one should not look at this young leader. One must look at the style of working of Rahul Gandhi.
When Rahul took over as Congress president, he had young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora with him as top lieutenants. At a time when the party’s political fortunes were dipping fast across India, it was Sachin Pilot who traversed the length and breadth of Rajasthan to garner public support.
Pilot was under the impression that he would be made the chief minister if the Congress won in Rajasthan. Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia was under the false impression that he would be made the chief minister if the Congress returned to power. But when the time for picking up the chief ministers came, Rahul Gandhi opted for Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath. At that time, Sachin Pilot tried his best to suppress his unhappiness over this selection, but now he has realized that though he was given the ornamental post of Deputy CM, he had practically no say in government. The entire political power in Rajasthan is concentrated in the hands of the chief minister.
As a counter move, Chief Minister Gehlot was trying his best to dislodge Pilot from the post of state party chief. Pilot’s supporters allege that the chief minister was trying to promote his son Vaibhav Gehlot as a power center. This was a clear affront to Pilot, who had put in years of toil to galvanize the party in Rajasthan.
A similar thing happened in Madhya Pradesh. Jyotiraditya Scindia toured the entire state to shore up the party’s position, but after the election results were out, it was Kamal Nath who was made the chief minister. Scindia was not even made the state party chief. Digvijay Singh’s son was made a minister, while Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath was made a party MP. Scindia was even denied a party ticket to become a Rajya Sabha member.
Scindia bided his time, and at an opportune moment, he displayed his political power by walking out of the Congress with his supporters and joined the BJP. This resulted in the fall of Kamal Nath’s government.
I think Sachin Pilot’s unhappiness is justified. He believes that Rahul Gandhi used him as a pawn to bring the Congress to power in Rajasthan and then cast him aside. The situation has now come to such a pass that several senior Congress leaders feel that it was Rahul’s style of working that caused Scindia to leave, and now Pilot wants to follow his path. They believe that if the issues raised by Pilot are not addressed soon, the party may soon have to sit in the opposition in Rajasthan.
There was one point to take note of on Monday. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had confined herself to Uttar Pradesh politics, stepped in to persuade Sachin Pilot. This was her first interference in sorting out political disputes in the party on a national level.
Congress leaders should learn a lesson from NCP chief Sharad Pawar. The Maratha strongman’s nephew Ajit Pawar not only revolted, but formed a government with BJP for a few days, and yet Sharad Pawar did not lose his cool. He calmly persuaded him to return, forgave him, and gave him a place of prominence in the coalition government in Maharashtra.
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