Ashok Gehlot has climbed greasy political pole by cutting to size all who stood in his way, writes Coomi Kapoor

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Published: July 19, 2020 6:00 AM

Only an opportunistic Digvijaya Singh and a few lesser known MPs have come forward to chant the familiar slogan "Rahul Lao, Congress Bachao".

The seemingly earnest, unassuming Gehlot manages to bad-mouth all rivals, hinting of their disloyalty.

Clueless aide

The Sachin Pilot rebellion last week has demonstrated once again the failure of the Congress leadership. Most are too intimidated in the family-controlled party to openly question Rahul Gandhi’s capabilities. Instead, they grumble against Rahul’s chief lieutenant K C Venugopal. The general secretary (organisation) is on every important Congress committee, but he remains clueless. Unlike R K Dhawan, Ahmed Patel, M L Fotedar and V George, who acted as the eyes and ears of the Gandhi family, Venugopal has neither the contacts nor the authority to be aware of what is happening in the party. So he can hardly provide the right feedback to his boss, who lives in a self-imposed cocoon.

Proof of Venugopal’s incompetence is that Sonia Gandhi’s term as interim president of the party ends on August 10, but he has failed so far to orchestrate a chorus of major Congress leaders demanding Rahul’s return. Only an opportunistic Digvijaya Singh and a few lesser known MPs have come forward to chant the familiar slogan “Rahul Lao, Congress Bachao”.

Up to his tricks

Ashok Gehlot has climbed the greasy political pole by cutting to size all who stood in his way. The long list of his victims includes Janardhan Singh Gehlot, Haridev Joshi, Parasram Maderna, C P Joshi and Sachin Pilot. Gehlot’s modus operandi is to cultivate the Congress high command in Delhi, from the lowest to the highest, to cover up his failures as a state leader and a party general secretary. He has always been particularly obsequious to the Gandhi family. When the Gandhi scions were children, Gehlot even performed magic tricks for them. He learnt the family profession from his magician father. The seemingly earnest, unassuming Gehlot manages to bad-mouth all rivals, hinting of their disloyalty. In 2018, after the Congress’s victory in Rajasthan, Pilot assumed the chief minister’s position was his after five years of slogging on the ground as PCC chief. But Sonia and Priyanka backed Gehlot and persuaded Rahul to go with him. In the present confrontation with Pilot, Gehlot knows the cards are stacked in his favour. Of the 13 Independent MLAs in the Rajasthan Assembly, 11 support him. They are rebel Congresspersons whom Gehlot secretly backed to contest as Independents, when they were denied party tickets in 2018.

Home truths

While some portray Vikas Dubey as a small-time don, he was in fact part of a powerful network connecting gangsters and bureaucrats, politicians in Uttar Pradesh. A second-hand car dealer of Kanpur is believed to have acted as the go-between. The car dealer was arrested after the death of eight policemen at Bikru village and before Dubey himself was shot. Dubey reportedly had some 20 properties in his name, some of them outside India. The STF in UP is investigating certain bureaucrats who are suspected of using Dubey to launder their wealth. Dubey attended the wedding of the daughter of a senior UP Home Ministry official late last year along with his gang members. The auto dealer-cum-middleman was a familiar face in official circles in Lucknow.

Caste aside

It is not merely those concerned about human rights who are upset at the manner in which Dubey was eliminated, many of Dubey’s caste brethren feel so even more strongly. In UP, gangsters may break the law but they are also viewed as protectors of their own biradiri. The late V P Singh, a Thakur like Yogi Adityanath, learnt this the hard way. As UP CM in 1980-82, he launched a much publicised anti-crime drive, but it backfired politically as it was perceived as targeting only non-Thakur criminals. Mayawati exploited the anti-Thakur polarisation to forge a Brahmin-Scheduled Caste alliance. So strong are caste allegiances that in the Assembly elections of 2017, Yogi Adityanath won for the BJP all the Assembly segments in Gorakhpur district except for Chillupar, where Vinay Shankar Tiwari, son of don Hari Shankar Tiwari, was victorious on a BSP ticket. Of course, even gang lords bow to the ruling dispensation, regardless of its caste profile. For instance, Independent MLA Amanmani Tripathi, son of jailed former SP don Amarmani Tripathi, shared a dais with Yogi Adityanath in 2017.

Changing view

Mamata Banerjee was once very critical of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Jana Sangh, dubbing him an RSS stooge. But when last month Narendra Modi announced that the Kolkata Port Trust should be named after him, Banerjee endorsed it and recently described Mookerjee as a great Bengali patriot. With an election around the corner, she is anxious not to annoy regional sentiments. Similarly, the Communists changed their mind about Subhas Chandra Bose, who they once dubbed as an agent of a fascist Tojo government. When in power they named
the Kolkata international airport after him.

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