Just days to go for the electoral battle in Rajasthan and while Ashok Gehlot awaits the results of the final showdown, one critical round has been won by the chief minister.
In a late-night press release, Congress announced yet another list of candidates for the desert state, with one name garnering attention. Shanti Dhariwal has got a ticket from his old seat of Kota (North). One may think it is no big deal but here’s the catch — The nod for Dhariwal sends out a clear message that Gehlot has had his way.
At the steering committee meeting, Sachin Pilot had suggested that those who had failed to follow party discipline should be denied a ticket. Dhariwal topped the list. He had attacked Pilot post the failed rebellion but Pilot had said the party top leadership must initiate disciplinary action against those MLAs who had failed to turn up for the CLP meeting which may have changed the king in the state.
In 2022, Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge were dispatched by Sonia Gandhi to Jaipur to solve the Gehlot-Pilot mess. Dhariwal and another leader Mahesh Joshi did not turn up at the CLP meeting and instead called Pilot and Maken traitors.
However, Dhariwal draws his power from the fact that Gehlot has blessed him and the two are close. This apart, the senior leader has not become the BJP’s target for allegations of his involvement in a land case in which he is accused of striking deals that have violated laws. Dhariwal was also questioned by the ACB in this connection.
But his pride is the riverfront he got built in Kota in record time at a cost of Rs 1,200 crore. Dhariwal has boasted that the Chambal riverfront will change the lives of those who live in the coaching city which is also mired in the paper leak case.
Gehlot was supposed to inaugurate the project but given the controversy over land acquisition and flouting of norms, he backed out at the last minute. Many in the Opposition had then said Gehlot was trying to distance himself from Dhariwal under pressure from BJP.
With Dhariwal’s name figuring in the list of candidates, it’s clear that Gehlot has not given up on his old friend — much to the chagrin of Sachin Pilot.