“Sachin Pilot is a ‘gaddar’ (traitor) and Congress leadership can never make him Chief Minister,” Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot said in an interview with NDTV on Thursday, underlining the continuing internal battle between the two warring factions within the Congress in the state, its last-remaining bastions.
The Rajasthan unit of the Congress has been split into two factions — one led by Sachin Pilot, the other by Gehlot — ever since the former’s failed attempt at a mutiny that almost brought down Gehlot’s government in 2020. With one year to go before elections are held in the state, the battle between the two factions only appears to be intensifying.
At the centre of this battle is Pilot’s claim to chief ministership — something his supporters claim was promised to him on a rotational basis by the party high command, and accepted by Gehlot as well. On his part, Gehlot has denied he had agreed to any such proposal.
The tussle between the two factions also threatens to cast a shadow on Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra which is scheduled to enter the state in the first week of December. A prominent Gurjar community leader on Thursday issued a warning to the Congress leadership that they would boycott the Yatra if Sachin Pilot was not appointed as the Chief Minister. Pilot, on his part, has sought to distance himself from the controversy.
Assembly elections in the state are scheduled to be held toward the end of next year. In the elections held in 2018, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party with 100 seats, one seat short of the majority, but sailed through to form a government with the help of Independents. The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, won 73 seats, a significant fall compared to the previous election in which it won an absolute majority of 163 seats.