Differences between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and deputy CM Sachin Pilot are not new and existed ever since the Congress came to power in Rajasthan in December 2018.
Less than two days after Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot sounded a rebellion against his own government and camped in the national capital, CM Ashok Gehlot has emerged as the winner for now. From the summons to Pilot by the SOG to Pilot flying to Delhi in revolt, leaders burning the midnight oil to clamour support from dissenting MLAs to the Congress parading 102 MLAs before the press claiming majority, CM Gehlot has clearly outsmarted his younger deputy, or so it appears for now.
With several of his own supporters turning up at Gehlot’s residence for the CLP meet, Pilot — who earlier refused an offer of truce and turn up at the meet — now seems to have offered a peace formula of his own. He is believed to have sought certain portfolios for his supporters and the PCC chief position for himself. While there is no word from Pilot himself on these demands, a key state Congress functionary is believed to arrive in Jaipur today after discussions with Pilot.
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The crisis began when reports surfaced late on Saturday evening that Pilot, miffed with the summons by the police SOG, had flown to Delhi and was camping in the capital with a bunch of his supporters. Efforts to pacify him went in vain as his supporters said they found working under Gehlot’s leadership as “untenable”. They said that the summons to Pilot was a clear attempt to humiliate him. Pilot camp claimed the support of 30 MLAs, which would have put the Gehlot government in serious trouble. Yet, it was Gehlot who was flashing the victory sign at his Jaipur residence.
So what went wrong with Pilot’s ambitious adventure? From the rebellion he set out to spark to his own purported offer for a truce in exchange for some plum ministerial positions, if true, signal a huge climbdown for Pilot. And he has only himself to blame. Gehlot, on the other hand, a shrewd and experienced politician, appears to have played his cards very smartly.
One, the FIR into the alleged attempts to overturn the government has left Pilot embarrassed and exposed. He has also managed to get Pilot to risk his position in the party as well as his rapport with the party high command by spearheading this rebellion. Third, Gehlot managed to get an upper hand by parading 102 MLAs before media cameras, thereby cementing his claim all along that there was no threat to the government.
At the CLP meet held today, the Congress MLAs passed a resolution vowing their unwavering faith in Gehlot’s leadership and also vowed to take strict disciplinary action against any Congress MLA or office-bearer found involved in a conspiracy to bring down the government. While Pilot was not named, the message to him was abundantly clear.
For now, there is no clear word on which way this desert storm will blow. However, what is clear is that Gehlot has managed to convincingly upstage his younger contemporary for now. Not only has he managed to save his government — if there was ever an immediate risk — he has also put Pilot in a position of no return.
Differences between Gehlot and Pilot are not new and existed ever since the Congress came to power in the state. There have been reports of a rift during the Lok Sabha elections, portfolio allocations and the functioning of the government. Will Ashok Gehlot have the last laugh? How stable will his government remain after this very public rift? The verdict may still be out on these. Congress has herded 102 MLAs to a five-star resort after the CLP meeting, signalling the risk may not be fully over. For now, Gehlot may have managed to push his biggest detractor and competition to the fringes in the party in this round of Rajasthan’s game of thrones.