It seems a Punjab repeat happening in Rajasthan for the Congress. Sachin Pilot will sit on a day-long fast today asking for action by his own government against the ‘corruption’ of the former Vasundhara Raje government.
The events seem erringly similar to the ones in Punjab two years ago when the state Congress chief, Navjot Singh Sidhu, had picked the banner of revolt against Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh accusing him of not acting against the Badals in the cases of sacrilege and drug trade. Sidhu also argued that if action was not taken, people will reject the Congress in the elections as it came to power promising justice in these cases. But unlike Pilot, Sidhu enjoyed the backing of the Congress high command which ultimately removed Amarinder Singh as CM. In Rajasthan, Pilot’s revolt will only strengthen Gehlot’s hands in the Congress.
To be fair, Pilot has been asking for such action for the last four-and-a-half years since Congress came to power in the state. As the state Congress chief before the 2018 elections, Pilot had made the ‘corruption’ under Raje as a major election campaign issue and promised a probe if Congress was voted to power. But the Pilot camp alleges that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has not acted against Raje given an informal understanding the two leaders have to not go after each other — and that this may cost the Congress in the upcoming elections. This is one reason among others for the bad blood between Pilot and the CM.
The move is also seen as a last throw of dice by Pilot to assert his importance in Rajasthan after none of his demands have been met so far. He also tried to corner the government over the paper leak issue and the protest by families of the Pulwama martyrs.
But the Congress in Rajasthan has thrown its weight behind Gehlot and has publicly asked Pilot to not hold his day-long fast and rather raise his issues in party forums. Pilot’s action in fact will only bolster Gehlot’s case before the Congress high command that Pilot is working against the interests of the party and should not be projected as the next CM face. Gehlot has been repeatedly citing Pilot’s revolt in 2020 when he tried to bring down the Congress government in the state with the help of some MLAs. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera has now said that a probe is on in that episode too.
The Gehlot camp, in fact, says Pilot’s present actions are borne out of frustration over his case of being made the CM before the elections or being projected as the next CM face — has not found acceptance inside the Congress. Pilot has not been on any post since 2020 after being removed as the state congress chief and deputy CM and will have little or no role in ticket distribution in the upcoming elections.
The CM’s camp now wants strict disciplinary action against Pilot for his attempt to ‘embarrass’ his own government just before the elections and for giving a handle to the BJP to highlight before voters the differences inside the Congress. The Gehlot camp feels it goes against the grain of fighting the elections ‘jointly’ as the Gandhis wanted.
Six months to go, will Congress meet the same fate as in Punjab 2022 in the Pilot-Gehlot feud in the year-end Rajasthan elections? The BJP is hoping for it.