By Sushil Kutty
The latest Sachin Pilot-Ashok Gehlot patch-up will last till June 8 when disqualified Congress Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi returns from his trip to the United States where the Congress scion will be raising yet another front against Prime Minister Narendra Modi like he had from London the last time he had gone abroad. The Pilot-Gehlot imbroglio will till then simmer on the back-burner like it has been smouldering for years.
In fact, the issue of Sachin Pilot has been on the Congress back-burner since 2018 and all that can be said about this youthful Congress leader is his capacity to take insults on the chin. “Does this man have any pride at all?” Contrast Sachin Pilot with Jyotiraditya Scindia, who quit the Congress and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, and it is “royal” versus “loyal”.
It will take a lot more for Pilot to do a Scindia on the Gandhis. The number of times Sachin Pilot has backed down and gone back on his resolve no longer bothers the Congress “high command”. The Gandhi Family has shown scant respect to the wishes and appeals of Rajesh Pilot’s son and heir. Sachin Pilot wants a promise from the Gandhi Family/high command promise that he will be Rajasthan Chief Minister post the upcoming assembly elections.
Till then, he wouldn’t mind being Rajasthan Congress Chief, i.e., if Rahul Gandhi is capable of thinking laterally. At this point in time, being PCC Chief brings with it more advantages than being Chief Minister, which will be for how many months?
Will the Congress high command give Sachin, i.e., the Gandhis and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, finally get down to settling matters in the Rajasthan Congress? The last time, the party’s top leadership got down to fix the jigsaw was when Rahul Gandhi was passing through with his Bharat Jodo Yatra. The patch-up then lasted only for so long as it remained in Rahul Gandhi’s memory.
This one – the latest shot in the dark – is waiting for Rahul Gandhi’s return from the US. Already newspaper reports are talking of the “stony demeanour” of both the protagonists. Congress general secretary KC Venugopal had to stand in between the two, literally! The conclusion, said one newspaper report, the divergences will persist, even beyond the Rajasthan Assembly elections slated for later this year.
The party high command cannot risk losing the assembly elections because Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are at each other’s throats. The party is caught in a cleft stick. It cannot just please one man – and it cannot just appease another man. Either way, the decision will boomerang. Therefore, the problem will persist. It’s a crisis of leadership. The Gandhi Family failed as did Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge.
Venugopal’s statement “the final decision on details has been left to the Congress president” wasn’t even face-saver. It has perhaps dawned on the leadership that Pilot would only go thus far and no further. Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot cannot dither anymore – time was running out for them like the proverbial sand.
The fact is, the Gehlot-Pilot mutual animosity cannot be wished away anymore. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot doesn’t miss a chance to cast doubts on Pilot’s loyalty to the Congress. Pilot in turn cites the number of “promises and assurances”. This time, the high command can deny him the Chief Minister’s post only at its peril.
The Congress’s dilemma is Pilot’s tale of disappointment is a statewide lament. Ashok Gehlot is a popular Chief Minister, but that doesn’t take away anything from Pilot’s acceptance as a charismatic leader, especially among the Gujjar community to which he belongs. Also, Pilot never tires of playing the “Gehlot’s insults” victim card.
Pilot’s recent campaigns to rid Rajasthan of corruption also hasn’t made Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot a friend of Pilot. Besides, the Congress has every intention to make “Modi’s corruption” the primary election issue in the Rajasthan assembly elections. Rahul Gandhi in the United States wouldn’t miss making ’Modani’ the talk of the town in “Hindenburg-country”.
Depending on how successful Rahul Gandhi is in the United States will guide his actions in Rajasthan on his return. The disqualified MP has nothing to lose. And after the victory in Karnataka, it becomes imperative to retain Rajasthan no matter what. The Gehlot-Pilot standoff is the only thing going right for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the fast-approaching Rajasthan assembly election. (IPA Service)