December 15, 2021 4:02:46 pm
Days after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot effected a Cabinet rejig, his ministry’s first reshuffle, in the wake of resolution of his long-running differences with arch party rival Sachin Pilot, decks are cleared now for political appointments to many posts in a slew of state corporations, boards, commissions and other bodies – which have been lying vacant for years – in the coming days.
Following the persistent intervention of the Congress central leadership, Gehlot finally undertook his ministry reshuffle, accommodating several ministers from the Pilot camp among the 15 new ministers who were sworn in.
Former Deputy CM and state party president, Pilot had rebelled against the Gehlot dispensation along with 18 MLAs in July last year. The Congress leadership had managed to defuse that crisis and get Pilot and his loyalists on board while promising them accommodation in the government, party and other power structures.
The Gehlot-led Congress government had come to power in December 2018, but even after three years, a large number of posts in many boards, corporations, commissions and even state statutory bodies – such as the Women Commission, Minorities Commission and SC Commission – have remained vacant so far.
In October last year, during a visit to Rajasthan, a team of the National Commission of Women (NCW) members had slammed the Gehlot government for not constituting the state Women Commission. They even charged that it was “shameful for democracy” that despite the NCW’s directions the Rajsthan Women Commission functioned without any members or even a chairperson.
A year later, the state Women Commission still continues to function without its head or members, with bureaucrats running it as administrators. Its last chairperson was appointed by the previous BJP government, whose tenure expired in October 2018 and since then the body does not have any member or chairperson.
After the Cabinet reshuffle last month, which was clearly undertaken to sink the intra-party differences with an eye on the 2023 Assembly elections, the Congress dispensation has now turned its attention to another contentious issue haunting it since the beginning: the issue of political appointments in various state bodies.
Congress leaders say that a state of long-standing impasse existed over these political appointments mainly because the Gehlot and Pilot factions have not been been able to work out a consensus on the names of candidates for various posts. But, they say, the two factions have now broadly agreed over the selection of nominees, whose list while having most candidates from the Gehlot camp will also see a significant representation from the Pilot group. This would mirror the model adopted for the ministry rejig. This is the reason why Congress leaders now maintain that the process of appointments to different bodies will be expedited.
“At present, there are more than 20 commissions and boards in which political appointments are to be made. Through appointments to the posts of chairpersons and members in such bodies, political parties hope to accommodate those leaders and workers who couldn’t become MLA or minister,” said a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
“The main contenders for these posts are people who contested Assembly elections on party tickets and lost, and other workers from the organisation who for long have been working without a post. But in the past three years, no consensus could be made about the names in most of these bodies as people from both the factions kept vetoing the candidates suggested by the other camp. Now, with state elections just two years away, the appointments can’t be delayed anymore,” the leader added.
The tussle between Gehlot and Pilot also ensured that the district Congress committees in the state remained vacant or without presidents for more than a year ever since they were dissolved during the political crisis last year. The appointments were recently made for the post of president in 13 district Congress committees, even as over 20 district committees continue to operate without their head.
A senior party leader close to Pilot cited a case, saying last year Manju Sharma, the wife of former AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, was appointed to a much-coveted post in the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC). That appointment, made by the Congress government, had raised eyebrows in party circles. Vishwas had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in UP’s Amethi constituency against top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and had lost.
“People who have nothing to do with helping the Congress to come to power have been rewarded with plum political posts along with bureaucrats. This doesn’t send a positive message to the party workers,” said the leader.
The Gehlot government had also appointed former chief secretary DB Gupta as Chief Information Commissioner, while former DGP Bhupendra Singh Yadav was appointed as RPSC chairman.
Pilot and his loyalist MLAs have made several statements in public, demanding that the Congress workers who worked hard for the party before the 2018 Assembly elections be made stakeholders in the party-led state government.
Some of the bodies where political posts remain vacant till date include the Rajasthan State Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC), Seed Corporation, Public Grievance Redressal Committee, and Disabilities Commission. These also include ENDthe post of chairman in development authorities and various posts in art and language academies.
“The list for political appointments in various boards and commissions is almost ready and can be declared at any time. The appointments will help in ensuring better representation from various regions of the state in governance and also to reward party workers who have been working for long in the party organisation,” said state Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi.