Struggling in Rajasthan, the Congress has found a sudden opportunity to revive itself with BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje embroiled in the Lalit Modi controversy. At the same time, however, the Congress also has to deal with differences within.
Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, whose son Vaibhav has been named in counter-allegations by the BJP, has scaled down the attacks but PCC chief Sachin Pilot has made the Lalit Modi controversy a rallying point for upcoming polls to 129 local bodies. The Raje-Modi controversy remained central to the speeches of both Pilot and state-in-charge Gurudas Kamat at a party workers’ rally in Jhunjhunu and Jaipur rural on Friday. Gehlot did not attend those events.
Party insiders said that even while the Congress unanimously passed a resolution to demand Raje’s resignation in a meeting in Udaipur last week, Gehlot had a feeble voice in this. After Raje came to power in her second stint, a CBI inquiry was sought into an alleged ambulance scam involving Gehlot and other leaders including Pilot.
On Friday, while defending Raje’s son Dushyant Singh, the state BJP levelled charges of dubious financial dealings by Vaibhav; on Monday, a complaint was lodged with the Enforcement Directorate.
The equations work favourably for Pilot, who since his appointment as state unit chief has increasingly displaced Gehlot in the party in Rajasthan. Since the wipeout in the assembly elections, the Congress has led campaigns centred on Raje’s moves to amend labour laws, revamp the free medicine scheme, her opposition to the Barmer refinery and the Jaipur Metro, apart from price rise. It recovered some lost ground in panchayat polls and assembly bypolls, narrowing down the gap in vote shares from 26 per cent to 2 per cent.
On Tuesday, Pilot announced a protest march demanding Raje’s resignation and took on the PM. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is losing political capital everyday. His professed intolerance for corruption is at stake now,” he said at a press conference in Jaipur.
Over the past week, the Congress led by Pilot has held demonstrations in every district of the state and gheraoed the CM’s residence demanding Raje’s resignation and a fair probe into the allegations made against her. “We must remember the allegations have been made not by the Congress party but by Lalit Modi himself and reports have come out in the media. The Congress will keep up a sustained agitation. The BJP after days of silence has given support to Sushma Swaraj and Raje,” Pilot said.