The Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot tussle in Rajasthan has become some sort of a cliche in Congress infighting. But the latest showdown between the Chief Minister and his Number two is qualitatively different.
Both the timing and the framing are significant. It comes when the pandemic and the lockdown have forced parties to put most political activity on temporary snooze. And, unlike previous times, it doesn’t have an external trigger.
Indeed, it has more to do with the Congress’s internal dynamics. That explains why this time many Congress leaders feel it is time the leadership – read Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi – not kick this can down the road as they have been doing since the party won Jaipur in December 2018. At least two MPs even articulated their concerns in public.
One night is also a long time in politics but Pilot may not be in any rush to join the BJP. His first priority, a close aide said, is to get the leadership to listen and take a stand rather than allow this feud to fester.
For, Pilot, like Scindia, is a second-generation leader but differs in both political style and capital.
He has the backing of an influential caste (Gujjar) which Scindia lacked. Pilot has also shown a willingness to endure the rough and tumble of politics. He did not shy away from taking up the responsibility of helming the state unit when it was offered. Scindia, on the other hand, was never keen to get his feet wet.
Unlike Scindia who turned down Deputy Chief Ministership, Pilot has fought hard for the post he secured, displaying political hunger and ambition along with an awareness of the need to pay his dues.
This time, therefore, the lines are drawn harder than ever. Pilot, sources close to him said, is clear he will not take the SOG notice lying down. He believes it cannot be “business as usual,” and the party leadership needs to listen to him.
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“Gehlot tried to kill two to three birds with one stone. In that, he went a little too far. He cornered the BJP saying you are party breakers…but he put a fishing inquiry too…invoking sedition, he went too far not realising that Pilot will respond. Pilot has reacted more strongly than what Gehlot had anticipated,” a senior high command leader said.
In the past, both have traded words.
From portfolio allocation to Gehlot’s desire to field his son Vaibhav in the Lok Sabha elections some months later, they have crossed swords over a range of issues. Pilot opposed the CM’s controversial decision to allow individuals who had not been directly elected by the people to contest mayoral polls and said the Government did not showcase achievements under his Ministry during the one-year celebration. The death of infants at a Kota hospital too had turned into a flashpoint.
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This time, there is no obvious issue – other than the root one: the fight between Gehlot and Pilot. Those close to Pilot think that this could be also framed as a fight for something larger – the very future of the party.
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