February 4, 2023 2:56 pm

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A Non-Gandhi Chief For Congress Could Come At Rajasthan’s Cost

After quitting chief ministership, Ashok Gehlot will certainly like to see his loyalist succeed him, which will be unacceptable for his bete noire Sachin Pilot, leading to a power struggle within Congress in Rajasthan

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If a non-Gandhi heading a Congress after more than two decades is a happening of interest for many, the state of Rajasthan is also being looked at with much curiosity for those keenly following Congress. 

The two political happenings in Congress are closely linked. The incumbent Congress Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot being a Gandhi loyalist is the front runner for party presidentship, while he paves way for others for chief ministership in Rajasthan.

Already on the decline in the country,  Congress today has full-fledged governments just in two states, Rajasthan, being one of them and Chhattisgarh, the other. It is also supporting non BJP governments in Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu. 

Though Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will be contesting for the coveted post of the Congress National President, quitting  the chief ministership will not be that all easy for him and things could further complicate if 45 year old Sachin Pilot, his long time detractor replaces him as chief minister. 

Being a Gandhi family nominee, Ashok Gehlot election to the post of party president stands to be a mere formality. But the turmoil begins once he leaves Jaipur. 

An astute politician Gehlot will certainly not like to see his bete noire at the helm of affairs in Rajasthan. He may prop someone close to him for the coveted post and would insist Congress high command for him.    

Already an old Congress warhorse in the state, CP Joshi is presently the speaker and is being considered as Ashok Gehlot’s choice for the post. Once at loggerhead with Gehlot, a brahmin face of Congress in Rajasthan, CP Joshi came close to Gehlot after he played a key role in saving his government during the June 2020 open rebellion of Congress MLAs that were led by none other than Sachin Pilot. 

Though Sachin Pilot had to finally reconcile at that time, it came at a cost to him as he lost both the state presidentship and Deputy Chief ministership. Even his loyalists in the Gehlot Ministry were sacked. 

If need be, Gehlot can even bat for BD Kalla, his cabinet colleague for chief ministership, as another option. There is no denial to the fact that Gehlot is certainly in a fix after Congress National Vice President Rahul Gandhi recently reminded him of the one man one post formulae, which was part of Udaipur Resolution of the party. In other words, the message to Gehlot is clear that you will have to relinquish the Rajasthan Chief Ministership once you assume the coveted post of Congress Party president. 

But then Gehlot has his stakes in Rajasthan. His son Vaibhav Gehlot too keeps big political ambitions. He unsuccessfully contested the last parliamentary elections 2019 from Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat, a constituency nursed by his father. Vaibhav wants to establish himself as a political entity in Rajasthan and yet needs the patronage of his father.   

The notification for the election of Congress Party President has already been issued with the process of filing of nominations already underway uptill Sept 30. The scrutiny of the nomination papers will be done on 1st of Oct. Date of polling if need be will be on 17 Oct followed by counting on 19 Oct. Gehlot is being seen as a nominee of Gandhis and is expected to smoothly sail through to become the Grand Old Party’s National President. 

But then If Gehlot succeeds in getting one of his loyalists as the new chief minister, Congress in Rajasthan will be in turmoil, which it cannot afford at this juncture.

Sachin Pilot in no terms will now forgo the chief ministership. Son of late Congress Stalwart Rajesh Pilot, Sachin, a tall Gurjar leader in the state commands a good following amongst the youth and his fellow castemen. In the aftermath of the 2018 assembly elections success, Congress favoured Gehlot over Pilot for chief ministership despite the latter’s immense popularlity. In no clearer terms, will he now accept someone else other than him to be the Rajasthan CM, particularly when Gehlot is shifting to the national stage. It could lead to an open rebellion with the party if someone else other than Sachin Pilot is made the new Chief minister. 

Assembly elections in Rajasthan are slated for 2023 and for Congress, retaining this state is very crucial. Any rebellion or resentment could lead to disastrous consequences. It has already lost Madhya Pradesh to a revolt, the state it won electorally alongwith Rajasthan. It will certainly be an acid test for Congress to ensure a smooth transition of power in Rajasthan, which at present however looks somewhat impossible.  

Jotirmay Thapliyal
Jotirmay Thapliyal

The writer has over two decades of experience in journalism that includes long stints with The Tribune and The Pioneer. Has acumen for political reporting. Keeps a passion for covering forests, wildlife and environment.

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