Sachin Pilot’s team is showing signs of running out of patience. A Rajasthan government minister seen as close to Mr Pilot said today “The party came to power because of Sachin Pilot; considering his hard work and he should be given the responsibility.” The minister, Hemaram Chowdhury, also said that the promotion should be imminent. Shouldn’t wait any longer, the party leadership should take a decision on this soon.
Three weeks ago, Mr. Pilot was uncharacteristically blunt as he said Congress must punish those who acted against his interests in September, when lawmakers loyal to Mr. Gehlot defied orders to attend an official meeting to decide who will be the next chief. the minister Instead, about 90 legislators called a convention of loyalists to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who Pilot is desperate to replace.
Mr. Pilot topped the statement with another attack on Mr. Gehlot, his senior by 26 years, saying that Mr. Gehlot lavished praise on the Prime Minister during a public appearance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which, according to Mr. Pilot, indicated that Mr. Gehlot would turn the Congress over to the BJP.
In fact, what Mr. Gehlot said was that the Prime Minister’s standing internationally derives from the fact that he is the head of Mahatma Gandhi’s country. Mr. Gehlot termed the statement as purely true and not one of special affection for the Prime Minister.
Mr. Pilot’s public outburst reveals his growing uneasiness with an unease that has engulfed the Congress over its plans for Rajasthan. On the one hand, it must discipline Mr. Gehlot for what it views as an unacceptable display; On the other hand, the Chief Minister seems to have more MLAs with him than Mr. Pilot in the numbers game.
When MLAs loyal to him called their meeting in Rajasthan, defying the Congress agenda, their aim was clear – they said Mr Gehlot, who had been pressed by then Congress boss Sonia Gandhi to replace him as party president, Mr Pilot. He should not be replaced as Chief Minister of Rajasthan. Mr Gehlot eventually apologized for that transgression by his party, but not without two days of ghosting by Mrs Gandhi. 81-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge was then elected party leader; Congress has threatened to punish those who cross the party in Rajasthan within days. Many weeks later, nothing.
Mr Chowdhury, the environment minister who lobbied for Mr Pilot today, was among a small group of legislators who rallied around Mr Pilot in 2020 when he forced a change in control of the Rajasthan government. To do so, he ensconced around 19 MLAs in a five-star resort near Delhi, daring the Congress to make him chief minister or face a split in the party. Mr Gehlot had already set up base camp at a five-star near Jaipur and had a much longer roll call than his rival – he supported about 104 MLAs, a dozen more independents. Mr. Pilot’s rebellion quickly subsided after the humiliation of losing his role as deputy chief minister and being removed from the post of party president in Rajasthan, a position that gave him access and power over party cadres.
Mr. Gehlot’s own muscle-flexing just a few weeks ago raised concerns among his team whether he would be asked to make way for Mr. Pilot. Elections in Rajasthan are due in about 11 months, and the seemingly irreconcilable animosity between its two top leaders there is unsettling the Congress. After Gujarat, Rajasthan will get Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Joro Yatra in a few weeks. Mr. Gandhi may also devote a leg of his visit to the Congress Yoga Yatra.
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