Updated: September 25, 2021 3:26:18 am
AFTER HAVING replaced its Chief Minister in Punjab, the Congress leadership has now turned its attention towards Rajasthan to set its faction-ridden house in order in the state. The immediate outcome of the meeting could be expansion and reshuffle of the Ashok Gehlot Cabinet to include several loyalists of Pilot.
For the second time in a week, Gandhi met Pilot on Friday. AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too joined in the deliberations. While some of the leaders in the Pilot camp said the meeting was “very positive”, the key question is whether the Congress leadership, if not immediately, was looking at a leadership change in Rajasthan as well.
A senior Congress leader said “things are moving in the right direction” in Rajasthan, signaling that a Cabinet reshuffle would be the first of the many changes that will take place in the state. While Assembly elections are still a little over two years away, the party has signaled that it has already started applying its mind on how to retain power in the state.
Pilot, who waged a revolt against Gehlot last year, is eager to take over as Chief Minister but the central leadership is said to be not in a hurry. But sources said all issues, including a succession plan, were on the discussion table. But unlike in Punjab where the Congress MLAs deserted Amarinder Singh, Gehlot enjoys the support of the majority of the MLAs.
“Punjab has shown that MLAs are ultimately with high command. The leadership has to take a call. Let’s see what happens and how it happens,” a senior AICC functionary said.
While there was speculation that Pilot could be made an AICC general secretary and given charge of an Assembly election-bound state, sources close to the former Deputy Chief Minister said he is not really keen to move out of Rajasthan. Neither is he agreeable to any proposal to reinstate him as the state Congress president.
Pilot was sacked as Rajasthan Congress president after he revolted against Gehlot last year. He was stripped of the post of Deputy Chief Minister too. “Returning to these posts is not on his agenda. He had been PCC president for seven years,” a leader close to him said.
Interestingly, Pilot had a meeting with Rajasthan Assembly Speaker and veteran Congress leader C P Joshi too earlier this week, which spawned all sorts of speculation. The meeting came days after the Speaker had a tiff with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal in the Assembly after which he announced adjournment of the House sine die surprising everyone. Joshi later relented and agreed to reconvene the session.
Gandhi and Pilot had met on September 17 too. According to sources, the Gandhis had given an indication to Pilot last year that he would be made Chief Minister at least a year before the Assembly elections.
Forcing Gehlot to include some of his loyalists in his cabinet thus would be the first victory for Pilot after his disastrous revolt last year which saw him lose both the deputy chief minister and PCC president post.
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