Election campaign in Rajasthan for the third phase of election scheduled to be held on November 25 has brought one unexpected change in both the Congress and the BJP organisational unity. Rahul Gandhi was seen on November 16, flanked by CM Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, not only confirming the reported beginning of the thaw in relationship between the two, but they were also seen surprisingly more relaxed and friendlier, to the frustration of the BJP, which was pinning hopes on their continuing schism during the election campaign..
Only one week is left in the election campaign in Rajasthan which would close on November 23. Unity between the Congress leaders Gehlot and Pilot has both vertically and horizontally bolstered the morale of the party’s rank and file across the state, and the process has triggered a positive rippling effect, which can potentially alter the electoral prospects of the chief contesting parties Congress and the BJP.
The situation has increased troubles for the BJP, which has already been suffering from severe infighting in the party for quite some time, and the truce between the two recently worked out by giving more tickets to the faction led by former CM Vasundhara Raje, and also making her agree to contest election. She is now back in the centrestage, but then the other faction led by Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is not happy. No wonder, both the factions are working hard to win more seats for themselves while working at cross purposes to clip the wings of each other by defeating their candidates, only to maintain their dominance over the state party organisation. Central BJP leadership knows this and only consolation for them was the perceived rift between the two factions in the Congress led by Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot respectively.
The factionalism within the BJP was seen until the ticket distribution after which the party had to face stiff resistance and protests across the state. The party could not even declare CM face in the state due to the two factions led by Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and former CM Vasundhara Raje respectively were in irreconcilable opposition to each other. Central BJP leadership then declared to contest the election under “collective leadership” in the name of PM Narendra Modi. Even though it was found that both the factions of the BJP have not been coordinating properly in party programmes and political rallies.
BJP has raised the communal pitch during the election campaign in the state and stepped up attack on the ruling Congress alleging corruption. ED has also been deployed to disrupt the Congress election campaign by taking action against the Congress leaders including CM Gehlot’s aides and the state Congress party chief. They have somehow been successful in putting ruling Congress in the state on defensive mode. BJP leadership has thought that the Gehlot-Sachin rift would go in their favour and they would ultimately be successful in throwing out Gehlot led Congress government out of power. However, vanishing of Gehlot-Sachin rift has put the BJP’s contestants in tough electoral battle.
Rivalry between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot was not new. Even before the last Vidhan Sabah election in 2018 it was there, but they were reconciled to each other just before the election to dislodge the BJP from power in the state, and it was a success. It was a proof that if united, BJP, even as ruling party, was no match to Congress. After the election Both eyed the CM post, but Gehlot, being senior was made CM and Pilot the Deputy CM. In July, 2020, Pilot resigned from the post, and the rivalry surfaced again. Reports of their rivalry and reconciliation have been coming out after intervals since then.
Only a few months ago in May and June, it seemed that a flash point had come, but the Central Congress leadership was able to establish some sort of truce between the two. The five-year tussle between them was officially over, but sporadic incidents in the state Congress, suggested that all was not well within the Congress and in between the two factions and their leaders.
Now just one week before closing of election campaign in Rajasthan, the narrative seems to be different. As Rahul Gandhi reached Jaipur ahead of his full-day election campaign on November 16, Gehlot and Pilot were seen together receiving him. “We are not seen together but we are united and will remain united. The Congress will sweep in Rajasthan,” Rahul Gandhi said, who was flanked by both the state leaders either side. Rajasthan Pradesh Congress committee chief Govind Singh Dotasra was also there.
Congress was really worried due to the potentially adverse impact on party’s electoral fortune in the message of rivalry between Gehlot and Pilot continued. CM Ashok Gehlot was also worried, which was clear from his social media post on November 15 in which he shared a photo of a party meeting also attended by Sachin Pilot. Obviously, it was to send a message to the party rank and file and also the electorate of the state that they were united. Not only this, Gehlot captioned the post “Together, winning, again.”
Gehlot and Pilot have decided to bury the hatchet is bad news of the BJP, which has been claiming that they would win the election. Even earlier, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal had asserted about the unity, which has just been confirmed. United Congress had thrown out BJP out of power in 2018, can it now retain power in the state by defeating the BJP’s high pitch communal campaign? Congress relies on its pro-people policies, while BJP is making allegation of corruption under CM Gehlot. The last leg of election campaign next week would decide the outcome of election. However, for now, united Congress seems to be gaining strength, and not-so-united BJP is threatened from within. (IPA Service)