By Sushil Kutty
Politics is the art of keeping the adversary guessing, which is what Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is good at. The harbinger of the crisis that is dogging the Congress in Rajasthan, Gehlot says something before going to bed and, then, something altogether different the next morning.
Late in the night September 25, the Rajasthan CM told Congress general secretary KC Venugopal that “things have now gone out of my hand” when asked how could things come to such a pass? This, after 92 Congress MLAs submitted their resignations to the Rajasthan assembly Speaker insisting that Gehlot should remain CM. The next morning Gehlot was telling media he had told Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in August itself that it was time the baton was handed over to the younger generation!
Gehlot is anything but a Gajini. An elephant will envy him his memory. But Gehlot is also described as a juggler and a magician. And ever since his name cropped up for the Congress president’s election, Gehlot has been juggling a little too much, keeping a whole bunch of people guessing as to what were his intentions other than to keep the guessing game going?
For example, where does Ashok Gehlot’s loyalties lie? The first thought that comes to mind is Gehlot is loyal only to the Gandhi family, and to the Congress, in that order. Then, in the last couple of days, it dawned that when it came to the crunch a man will be loyal only to himself, and Gehlot was no different from the standard die.
Things also dawned that for Ashok Gehlot, too, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Things may change after October19, by when who will be Congress President would be settled, and the sacrosanct ‘one man-one post’ edict could then get a fresh looksee. Till then, Gehlot would stick to the Rajasthan CM’s chair.
It was believable theory. Gehlot wanted to make sure he’s elected Congress president before he decided to give up the Rajasthan CM’s post. But read between the lines, it was more like Gehlot wanted to be ‘Congress President’ as well as ‘Rajasthan CM’.
Ashok Gehlot fancied himself a two-in-one. He figured there’s nobody taller than him in Rajasthan politics, a true veteran with magic to boot. And he doesn’t like the maverick, who is not even a real-deal pilot, to replace him as CM. The Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot animus runs deeper than what one would think.
Hadn’t Pilot bragged he had landed Rajasthan for the Congress and not Gehlot. And, therefore, he should be made CM? And hadn’t Ashok Gehlot called Pilot ‘Nikamma’? Also, if Pilot’s Achilles heel is that he looks too young to be capable, his Waterloo ‘Manesar’ is still waiting to happen! Pilot’s die is tainted by Manesar where he had gone in 2018 with 25 fellow-crusaders railing against Gehlot, only to lose to the older-experienced plotter, whose magic is hard to beat or best.
This time around, it looked like there was more than just Sachin Pilot in Gehlot’s crosshairs. Some Congressmen got the uneasy hint that Gehlot was also battling the high command. Hadn’t earlier Congress presidents held two posts at the same time? Indira Gandhi for one, who was both Prime Minister and Congress President. Ashok Gehlot looks like he is of Indira’s bent of mind.
Also, whenever Ashok Gehlot is in two minds or somebody he is at odds with is in two minds, Gehlot goes knocking at a temple door. September 25, when all of Jaipur was immersed in political uncertainty, Gehlot had gone incommunicado even as it trickled down that the crisis gripping the Congress was a direct fallout of Gehlot’s unbridled gluttony for power.
Gehlot wanted to perhaps double his power. The ‘one man-one post’ is not his code. That is Rahul Gandhi’s fantasy. Not two days ago, Gehlot was marching step in step with Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Then, September 25, Gehlot was at the Tanot Mata Mandir in Jaisalmer, which neither Pakistani bombs nor mobile towers can breach!
For the entire day September 25, Ashok Gehlot remained incommunicado, protected from the inquisitive glare of Congress observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge sent to Jaipur by Sonia Gandhi herself to cement the cracks. Gehlot deliberately made himself unavailable, not a loose cannon but a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode at a day and place of his choosing.
Was Gehlot getting too big for his boots, quite willing to duck and dodge the high command? September 26, there are reports Gehlot has retrieved his loyalty to the Gandhi Family and the Congress party he has served with unstinting servitude for decades. Reports say Gehlot has told Sonia Gandhi that she can “pick” anybody she deems fit to retain Rajasthan for the Congress in 2023!
Apparently, Gehlot got the “new generation” hint in an early morning conference call. Or, he himself revised his assessment and thought it best if he remained loyal rather than ambitious. So it is let somebody younger become CM, somebody who has more chances of “winning Rajasthan for the Congress in 2023”, which cannot be anybody else other than Sachin Pilot! Looks like everybody has been read the riot act, the 92 MLAs and Gehlot himself. Nobody is taller than the Congress high command. (IPA Service)