By Sushil Kutty
That Sachin Pilot does not like Ashok Gehlot must not be a difficult answer in Rajasthan. The late Rajesh Pilot’s son is a long time sufferer at the hands of the magician-turned-politician who says “the CM post won’t leave me”. If only Sachin Pilot knew this before he was conceived, he would have chosen not to be born in the first place. Today, just weeks short of another assembly election, Gehlot has made it clear he will be Chief Minister if the Congress returns to power in Rajasthan and it will be Sonia Gandhi’s job to announce the decision.
Sachin Pilot was nowhere within earshot when Gehlot broke this news to the world at large. Pilot is young and is used to Gehlot’s love for the “kursi”. Especially the Chief Minister’s chair. Unfortunately, for Sachin Pilot, Ashok Gehlot is an expert at clinging to the “kursi” and nobody has to teach him the science and art of it.
This was made clear at a presser the other day at the AICC headquarters. Ashok Gehlot, the three-time Chief Minister is looking forward to a fourth term, it doesn’t matter whether Sachin Pilot is angling for his very first shot at the CM’s chair. The fact is Pilot cannot fathom why the Congress high command – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra – gives Gehlot a long rope while keeping Pilot at arm’s length.
The answer is embedded in Pilot’s personality, the apparent lack of aggression, and the fact that he caves in, always. The party high command takes advantage of Pilot’s “introvertness”, and so does Ashok Gehlot. The Chief Minister is also difficult to dislodge because he knows when to strike, which is always when the iron is hot. And right now, on the eve of the assembly elections, the iron is the hottest – when the Congress is about to release its list of candidates.
For some reason, Sachin Pilot was MIA at 24 Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters, when Gehlot said the “CM’s post won’t leave me”, which suited Gehlot fine. Perhaps, it suited even the party high command fine. Gehlot appeared to be cautioning the high command to let sleeping dogs lie. Even otherwise, Ashok Gehlot does not subscribe to “may the best dog win”. Gehlot is the sort who takes the tiger by the tail and does not let go.
By now, the high command must have got the message. Sachin Pilot also and Pilot is used to stewing in his juices. Gehlot’s assertions are not new to Sachin Pilot. But another confrontation between Gehlot and Pilot would not spell right for the party on the eve of the assembly elections.
If a row breaks out it will be seen as the Congress high command’s weakness. Or wrong handling of party affairs by the top leadership. Ashok Gehlot is always all too ready to challenge the leadership. He did it when the Gandhi Family chose him for the Congress president’s post. He declined to contest and the party had to settle for Mallikarjun Kharge.
Ashok Gehlot should say “Gehlot does not leave the CM’s post” and not the other way round. Now, it is up to Gehlot to prove his indispensability to the Congress in Rajasthan. That being said, maybe there is truth to his insistence that he wanted to leave the post but the post had reservations. The Congress can do without the Gehlot-Pilot standoff, but it is always too late. Gehlot’s message to Sachin Pilot the other day was that those clamouring for the CM’s post usually never get it.
If that isn’t plain-speaking, what is? Sachin Pilot must by now be used to Gehlot’s “signs-language”. Pilot has been waiting for years to occupy the Chief Minister’s post. In 2018, his impatience finally spilled over. This time he should have burst an artery with Gehlot happy to help. At the party headquarters the other day, Ashok Gehlot bantered with the media and if Pilot was watching, it was a lesson on how to pilot a press conference to a smooth landing.
At one point, Gehlot addressed the media, as if the younger politician was in the building, “You must be hinting at Pilot… All the decisions that are being taken are taken after consultations with everyone… All those who are supporters of Pilot, I am intervening on their behalf in all the decisions. So you can imagine how smoothly decisions are being taken. Only the BJP should be worried, nobody else”, adding that he believed in “forgive and forget”. Well, what more can Pilot ask for, except quote the American saying, “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, meaning don’t presume, yet, wait. (IPA Service)