By Sushil Kutty
Finally, the Congress is on track to win Rajasthan after the Bharatiya Janata Party poured urine over its prospects in Madhya Pradesh which along with Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are among five states that will go to polls before the 2024 general elections. So, has Sachin Pilot’s truce with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot put an end to the bitter feud which more than once left the Congress high command at its wit’s end? From henceforth, both Gehlot and Pilot have promised to work as a team with the right to name the Chief Minister resting with the high command, i.e., the Gandhi family.
The Gehlot-Pilot truce was hammered out in the presence of senior Congress leader and “bhavi Pradhan Mantri” Rahul Gandhi with Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge in the picture. Pilot was there in person but a toe injury kept Gehlot at home though he was “virtually” very much part of this breakthrough. Significantly, and historically, Rajasthan is known not to repeat the same party twice in succession.
But nearly 10 years of Modi rule at the Centre would be the reason for Rajasthan to remain in safe hands. In fact, if the Bharatiya Janata Party wasn’t so full of the daft, it would pack off Prime Minister Narendra Modi without much ado and as little ceremony. Voters almost everywhere have had enough of Gujarat running the show from New Delhi. As simple as that.
So, be prepared to witness the Gehlot-Pilot feud in Rajasthan to renew! The hard-earned truce worked out at the 24 Akbar Road Congress headquarters in New Delhi will last at the most till the last vote is counted and the Congress is declared winner of Rajasthan. Only idealists and utopians will give the Gehlot-Pilot truce a long life. When it comes to holding hands these two have claws!
That said, there was unprecedented unity in play at the 24 Akbar Road meeting. The brainstorming lasted four hours. The feud was discussed along with the party’s preparedness for 2023’s five assembly elections. Congress general secretary (Org) KC Venugopal broke the news that a “united leadership” will take on the BJP in Rajasthan, meaning neither Gehlot nor Pilot would get the option to screw up Congress prospects.
Needless to say, behind the truce is the confidence that this is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his longtime sidekick will go into political wilderness without creating too much of a fuss. The only fear is, the duo is not spooked into putting into play the EVM to avoid sure-shot defeat.
Even otherwise, the BJP’s election juggernaut is living in the false belief that it’s fully in command. And just so that Congress plans are not leaked to the rival camp, KC Venugopal warned of strict punishment to those discussing party matters in public. Again, needless to say, Congress Chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi approved of this.
Two men who will be directly affected by this diktat are, of course, Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. When the two will come to blows is something nobody, not even them, can predict. If past behaviour is to go by, the Gehlot and Pilot feud will be part of Rajasthan Congress lore for as long as the ship of the desert walks the Thar!
Hopefully, the election strategy part of the meeting will remain on top and not the feud. And as part of election strategy, it was made clear that the Congress had a policy not to declare a chief ministerial candidate. Instead, the party will fight the election “unitedly”. Gehlot and Pilot have to live with it. In any case, it was time somebody read out the riot act to the pair. Their shenanigans had simply gotten out of hand.
However, curious party men and women in both the feuding factions were dissatisfied. They wanted to know the specifics of the peace deal to show unity. For, let nobody be fooled into believing that Gehlot and Pilot had changed overnight and for the love of the Gandhi family chosen to bury the hatchet.
Nothing of the sort. Credit, however, should be given where and when it is due. The Congress high command finally let it be known to all and sundry who is ‘Boss’. That said, Sachin Pilot supporters had something to gloat when Venugopal announced the Gehlot government would introduce Bills to reform the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) and ensure strict punishments for those leaking question papers.
Also, cases of corruption dating back to time of BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje would be made a poll issue. Pilot believes strongly that the Congress will return to power if it goes after the BJP’s corruption. The man who wants to be Rajasthan Chief Minister believes he can deliver Rajasthan to the Congress if the party acts on his recommendations. But he overdid it when he said he will “follow whatever directions the party gives me”. Pilot and party discipline are two different things though rumours are the high command wants Pilot to head the state election campaign committee. And that, not because Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has hurt his toes! (IPA Service)